"You Don’t Have to be an Expert in Medicine to be a Good Designer in Healthcare"
Below is an article originally written by Henry Bayuzick, a Product Designer at PowerToFly Partner Flatiron Health, and published on October 4, 2018. Go to Flatiron Health's page on PowerToFly to see their open positions and learn more.
For a good part of my life, I wanted to do something in healthcare. There was always something so powerful about the idea of becoming a doctor and helping patients heal. There was only one problem: I didn't do well in biology and I didn't think I was was capable of going through the rigors of medical school. So when it came time to choose my career, I went with what I was good at: design.
Five years into my career, the opportunity to be a designer at Flatiron Health presented itself. It seemed like the perfect gig, an intersection between my interest in healthcare and what I was good at. I was nervous that my struggles in biology would quickly resurface making it hard for me to succeed at a healthcare company, but, one year later, I'm confidently able to say that you don't have to be an expert in medicine (or good at biology) to be a good designer in healthcare. Here's why.
Co-designing with experts enables clinically-accurate solutions
At Flatiron, subject-matter experts are embedded in every product team and include doctors, pharmacists, physician assistants, and more. On each project, gaining context begins by sitting down with the subject-matter expert(s) and learning relevant information. This means asking questions like, "What's the difference between clinical staging and pathologic staging?" or "Who is the person entering this information?". Their expertise enables me to better understand the varying clinical content (in this case staging and prognostic factors) determining the information hierarchy, relationships, ideal states and challenging problems.
But our partnership doesn't end there; instead, throughout the project, we collaborate on design solutions to ensure our mental models continue to align and the end experience is clinically accurate. For example, when physicians stage cancer, they also track prognostic factors such as biomarkers that better explain the disease. The workflow that we were redesigning collected prognostic factors as a one-time value, which, for a medical novice like me, seemed logical. However, in reality, prognostic factors change over time and how they are tracked is significant when determining future treatment. Collaborating with subject-matter experts revealed this difference, its importance and ways to improve it.
How you learn is more important than what you know
Nobody knows everything. Okay, so that's obvious, but really, even the oncologists who have been practicing medicine for longer than I have been alive don't know how everything works. To be clear, they know a lot, and it's incredible how much providers can store and recall, but at the end of the day, every individual has their own area of expertise. What this means is that at the beginning of each project, it doesn't matter how much I know or how much I don't know, instead what matters is how willing and able I am to learn. A lot has been written about beginner's mindset, and with each project at Flatiron, there's really no other option for me than to have a beginner's mindset. Recently, my team and I redesigned the workflow that physicians use to select treatment (much more difficult than it sounds). There was no pretending, I didn't know anything about chemotherapy regimens, but I did know how to learn. I researched treatment guidelines, asked oncologists about how they choose treatment, walked through real patient scenarios, and sketched diagrams of my understanding.
User research will likely reveal what you missed
Flatiron's not-so-secret key to success has been to embed clinical experts into all projects. Although we have the privilege to work with clinical experts on an almost daily basis, user research is still essential. Subject-matter experts help us understand clinical content and how workflows should be performed, but thorough user research reveals how people are actually using our software, the nuances between providers and clinics, and the creative workarounds. There is also simply no replacement for putting a design solution in front of the person who will ultimately be using it every day. Before working in the healthcare, I cut corners with user research, often making assumptions based on what I would do and using poor proxies, but designing healthcare products has forced me to improve my research skills. Over the course of a year, I have shadowed physicians and front-office staff, and conducted numerous remote research sessions with clinical users, such as sessions with chemotherapy nurses to understand how they calculate drug doses and use design solutions aimed at improving the safety of their workflow.
A few months ago, I was shadowing a physician when I felt a brief desire to go back to school so I could practice medicine. When I mentioned this idea to the doctor, he said, "Adding another doctor doesn't solve these problems, but redesigning our approach does." It was in this moment I realized the unique skills I was bringing to the table as a designer. Digitizing electronic health records didn't magically make healthcare better, in most cases it did the opposite by contributing to physician burnout. All along my desire to be a doctor was rooted in helping people get better, and although I was not a good biology student, being willing to learn, to co-design with experts, and to invest in becoming a better researcher has enabled me to do just that.
Diversity Reboot 2021: The One Hundred Day Kickoff<p><strong>When</strong>: February 1-5, 2021</p><p><strong>Where</strong>: Virtual</p><p><strong>Price to register:</strong> Free!</p><p><strong>Where to register: </strong><a href="https://summit.powertofly.com/" target="_blank">Here</a></p><p>We had to include our own Diversity Reboot on our list of the best diversity and inclusion events to attend in 2021 because we know firsthand how the quality of 100+ expert speakers, the enthusiasm of 10,000 participants, and the cutting-edge tech that enables meaningful virtual networking and job fairs combine to create a truly epic five-day experience. This year, the theme 100 Day Kickoff harnesses the energy of the new government's first 100 days in office to help jump-start personal and professional plans to build more diverse and inclusive workplaces. </p><p>Following the February summit, we'll have a monthly series of smaller virtual summits on topics spanning everything from returnships to LGBTQ+ advocacy, so be sure to stay tuned for updates!<br></p>
The Future of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion 2021<p><strong>When</strong>: February 3-4, 2021</p><p><strong>Where</strong>: Virtual</p><p><strong>Price to register:</strong> Free</p><p><strong>Where to register:</strong> <a href="https://www.hr.com/en/webcasts_events/virtual_events/upcoming_virtual_events/the-future-of-diversity-equity-and-inclusion-2021_kcxf8glq.html#detail" target="_blank">Here</a></p><p>This virtual conference put on by HR.com focuses on how social movements like #MeToo and Black Lives Matter have pushed DEI at work beyond legal compliance and into a major factor of any company or brand's culture, employee engagement, and performance. Topics include how to uncover and resolve pay gaps across your team and hire top-level diverse talent.</p>
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Diversity: How Employers Can Match Words With Deeds<p><strong>When</strong><strong>: </strong>May 19, 2021</p><p><strong>Where:</strong> Virtual</p><p><strong>Price to register</strong><strong>: </strong>Early bird registration is $49 and general admission is $149</p><p><strong>Where to register:</strong> <a href="https://hopin.com/events/may-virtual-conference-diversity-how-employers-can-match-words-with-deeds" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Here</a></p><p>From Day One is hosting monthly conferences in 2021 focused on different ways for companies to foster strong relationships with their customers, communities, and employees. May's half-day virtual event is focused specifically on how companies can make diversity promises that don't fall flat and features workshops, panels, and a fireside chat.</p>
Hire with Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion<p><strong>When:</strong> August 18, 2021</p><p><strong>Where: </strong>Virtual</p><p><strong>Price to register: </strong>$195</p><p><strong>Where to register:</strong> <a href="https://www.hci.org/conferences/2021-virtual-conference-hire-diversity-equity-and-inclusion-august-18-2021" target="_blank">Here</a></p><p>This conference put on by the Human Capital Institute is one of 12 virtual conferences that HCI has planned for 2021. This one focuses on fair and inclusive talent acquisition, including how to attract diverse talent, implement inclusive hiring practices, and addressing bias in employee selection. Other conferences will focus on optimizing talent strategy, engaging employees, and developing your workforce.</p>
Virtual Grace Hopper Celebration 2021<p><strong>When:</strong> September 26-29, 2021</p><p><strong>Where:</strong> Virtual, broadcast from Chicago, Illinois</p><p><strong>Price to register:</strong> Was $799 for regular access to the virtual conference in 2020; 2021 pricing hasn't yet been announced</p><p><strong>Where to register:</strong> <a href="https://ghc.anitab.org/attend/registration/" target="_blank">Here</a>, though 2021 registration wasn't live at the time of writing</p><p>Grace Hopper might be the best-known conference for women in tech. Through keynote presentations, networking sessions, job fairs, and community-building activities, vGHC reached over 30,000 women for their 2020 conference and are expecting even more in 2021! While not a conference focused exclusively on diversity and inclusion, many speakers plan to focus their talks on creating environments for women to thrive in the male-dominated tech field.</p>
Inclusion 2021<p><strong>When:</strong> October 25-27, 2021</p><p><strong>Where:</strong> Virtual and in person in Austin, Texas as of now</p><p><strong>Price to register:</strong> Hasn't yet been announced</p><p><strong>Where to register: </strong><a href="https://conferences.shrm.org/inclusion" target="_blank">Here</a>, though 2021 registration wasn't live at the time of writing</p><p>The Society for Human Resource Management's biggest conference of the year saw 1,200 DEI leaders participate last year; SHRM hopes to see even more come to learn, be inspired, and to walk away with a playbook of implementable strategies to create truly inclusive workplace cultures.</p>
AfroTech 2021<p><strong></strong><strong>When:</strong> November 8-13, 2021</p><p><strong>Where:</strong> Virtual</p><p><strong>Price to register:</strong> Early bird pricing is $149 for individuals and $249 for corporate attendees; regular pricing hasn't yet been announced</p><p><strong>Where to register:</strong> <a href="https://experience.afrotech.com/" target="_blank">Here</a></p><p>AfroTech is a conference hosted by Blavity, a tech media platform for Black millennials. It focuses on emerging tech trends, connecting Black talent with top tech recruiters, and providing networking and educational opportunities, with an overall goal of building a strong Black tech community. Over 10,000 people participated in 2020. While the conference isn't focused specifically on DEI, its main audience of Black tech talent is an important one to understand and to engage at work and beyond, and several speakers plan to focus on issues of race and inclusion at work. </p>
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