Design In Health Care

To design clinical experiences that meet patients’ needs, Mayo Clinic must understand those needs. The Center for Innovation (CFI) uses a defined methodology to bring discipline and focus to the work of innovation. Housed on the 16th floor of the Gonda building, the center is like a giant incubator — a space for nurturing new ideas, enabling them to grow, mature and evolve until they are ready for the patient.  The Center also has teams in both Arizona and Florida fueling the growth of innovation in those sites.


The Center has developed an in-house lab on the 12th floor of the Gonda Building, the Multi-Disciplinary Design Lab. Not only do we observe patients, interview families, and conduct traditional consumer research, but we also visualize, model, prototype and test possible health care delivery solutions, creating innovations that will transform health care delivery.


Design thinking is a creative, problem-solving approach that CFI uses to improve consumer health care experience and delivery. The term characterizes a problem-solving approach that goes beyond process analysis or quality improvement. In a recent Harvard Business Review article, Tim Brown, CEO of the design consultancy IDEO, said:

“Design thinking can be described as a discipline that uses the designer’s sensibility and methods to match people’s needs with what is technologically feasible and what a viable business strategy can convert into customer value and market opportunity.”

These sensibilities could include empathy, creativity, ambidextrous thinking, systems thinking, a human-centered focus, and deep curiosity about the world. Design methods include ethnographic and observational techniques, visualization, prototyping, sketching, storytelling, brainstorming, and so on.

Design thinking is a perfect fit with Mayo’s values — a human-centered focus (our patient), curiosity (our research enterprise is one of the largest in medicine), and a culture of teamwork.

Refueling Business Strategy

Design thinking has become a vital tool in fueling business innovations. What is our product? Are we delivering it in a way that makes the consumer feel good about the experience? Are we providing a service that won’t become obsolete? Some say that the experience is the product. In health care, design thinking has had a role in creating competition where there previously was none.

Mayo’s decision to fuse design principles and the hypothesis-based scientific method is invaluable in helping us uncover the various human needs in the health care environment. It’s the complement of design allowing us to think beyond what we normally do and serve as translators for ideas and possibilities.



Innovation needs a special place.  To work and think differently, people need spaces to facilitate innovative work.  The Center for Innovation has created several places throughout Mayo Clinic to better engage with patients, providers and project participants.


The center is located among patient care floors in the Gonda Building in Rochester, Minnesota, and includes glass-enclosed, reconfigurable areas along with large collaboration spaces.  It’s designed without walls to allow for greater team collaboration and transparency between projects and those working on them

Center for Innovation

The Center for Innovation expanded operations and moved to the Gonda Building, 16th Floor, in 2010.  Its space provides an innovative work area that enables creativity, fosters transparency and supports collaboration with a commitment to responsible use of Mayo Clinic resources.


The space supports a multidisciplinary team with combined individual desk space and larger, shared team spaces.  With built-in drop-on spaces, stakeholders and project collaborators can easily sit with the team when needed.

Multidisciplinary Design Clinic

Under the leadership o f Michael D. Brennan, M.D., Endocrinology, and Nicholas F. LaRusso, M.D., who was then the center’s medical director, the Mayo Clinic Department of Medicine envisioned a “living lab” that would allow specialists to study how health care in experienced and delivered to patients.


The outcome was Mayo Clinic’s unique Multidisciplinary Design Clinic in the Gonda Building, 12th Floor.  This space is a versatile environment that brings health care providers together with patients in a space that allows experimentation with care model prototypes with the goal of creating the optimum health care experience.


Modeled after a scientific research laboratory, where hypotheses are piloted, observed, tested and improved, the Multidisciplinary Design Clinic Functions as a setting in which providers experiment with health care delivery methods, prototypes and processes.  Working directly with patients and providers allow rapid prototyping with all stakeholders to discover new insights and address problems in the current system of health care delivery.


Why Design in Health Care

Patient exam rooms look nearly the same as they did 100 years ago. With appointments scheduled, travel plans made and lobbies navigated, patients wait to enter an essentially unchanged environment to receive medical care.  The Mayo Clinic Center for Innovation asks: Is there a better way?


The Center’s role is to transform the experience and delivery of health care with a patient-centered focus.  It offers a multidisciplinary team to turn innovative ideas for medical practice into practical solutions that change how patients receive health care – a medical transformation.


The Center for Innovation’s health care design dovetails with Mayo’s values: a human-centered focus (patients). curiosity (Mayo’s research enterprise in one of the largest in medicine) and a culture of teamwork.