Oct 29 Barnraise 2015: Helping To Bridge Healthcare and Design

We recently participated in the IIT Institute of Design’s student-run conference, Barnraise, as one of thirteen design firm partners. Barnraise is a hands-on maker-conference, aimed at cross-pollinating design and healthcare perspectives by connecting design firms with community-based organizations and participants. This year’s theme was “Designing Improved Access to Care” with a focus on the barriers and opportunities that patients experience as they seek adequate and effective healthcare services.

At Barnraise, conference attendees are assigned to teams, each led by a design partner to facilitate the working session and a community partner to educate the team around a specific challenge. We were matched with the nation’s largest non-profit, the YMCA of the USA, which offers programs, services, and initiatives for youth development, healthy living, and social responsibility.

Our team challenge was: “How might we link clinical and community-based services to help older adults prepare for and recover from joint replacement surgery?” Mobility and stability are key to a healthy lifestyle, and joint replacement surgery offers a chance to maintain activity levels. As the average lifespan increases, the frequency of joint replacement surgery is also increasing.

We had the good fortune to facilitate an incredibly talented team of YMCA staff and Barnraise participants, who took our jam-packed agenda in stride. Over the course of two short days, our team conducted primary research with multiple stakeholders, including a nurse, a physical therapist and patients. Based on our findings, we developed a current state journey map of the patient experience from prep to rehab. Next, we identified opportunity areas for redesign, and mapped them to the Y’s capabilities and assets. We brainstormed more than 100 ideas, developed thirty concepts, and then chose those that were most closely aligned with the Y’s capabilities and assets to prototype solutions for implementation.


We wrapped up our two days of work at a public showcase at the office of MATTER, a community of healthcare entrepreneurs and industry leaders working together in a shared space to individually and collectively fuel the future of healthcare innovation. Each team was given three minutes to share their challenge and solution, all of which were inspiring and had the potential to transform some component of the healthcare system.

We really enjoyed being a part of Barnraise and working alongside other design firms such as Fjord and Razorfish to equip community leaders, community health organizations and other participants with the tools and the human-centered mindset they need to take on complex social problems in the future. The conference was extremely well organized, and the IIT students did an amazing job making Barnraise a great experience for all of us. If it’s not already, Barnraise 2016 should be on your list for next year’s conference circuit!


© All photos by Sylvia Cheng

Carmen Liu
Carmen Liu

Passionate about people and technology, Carmen writes about curious observations and explorations in human culture and design strategy.