Have you heard the story about a boy born in Yorkshire, England, who studies art in Birmingham, finds his way to Finland to work with design maestro Alvar Aalto, and then crafts a printer that Steve Jobs loved?

I have, at CES 2019, when I sat down with Sean Carney, Chief Designer at Philips.

It’s well-known that Philips has been firmly focused on health and health care, covering both clinical/professional healthcare as well as personal health for self-care. What you may not know is that underpinning the company’s innovations is a major commitment to all aspects of design. Design is embedded in Philips, which is one of first companies to bring design into a company in this way.

workflows at Philips is Sean Carney. He’s part of Philips’ leadership team, and as such design informs corporate strategy at the company.

I was grateful to Sean for spending time with me at CES 2019 in Las Vegas to brainstorm the role of design in health/care.

Sean wears two hats at Philips: as Chief Design Officer, he manages the entire design team and workflow globally. But he dons a second hat, too, as General Manager of Healthcare Transformation Services, Philips’ consulting services for healthcare providers. Launched in 2013, the team now has about 150 health care consultants, spanning Chief Nursing Officers, Chief Marketing Officers, ex-department heads of hospitals — the range of professionals who can, as Sean said, “dig in and redesign care pathways that optimize performance through design.”

Consider Philips’ core business in the clinical tech supply side: the team works on the “micro level from the device” to the clinical workflow, Sean explained to me. Imagine Cath labs, rooms where doctors navigate inside a heart, using software and guidance systems, x-rays and ultrasound tools at the ready. The consulting team assesses both patient experience and care pathways, beyond a medical device company’s traditional role of selling medical devices to health care providers.

To give you an example of this process, here’s one of my favorite examples of Philips’ design-ful approach in a health care setting. This video of “Dutch Masters” illustrates a collaboration to re-imagine a patient’s MRI experience in concert (literally) with the Rotterdam Philharmonic Orchestra, the Rijksmuseum (Amsterdam’s brilliant art collection), the Erasmus Medical Center, and AMC Amsterdam (not the cinema company but the Dutch academic medical center). I ask you to invest just two minutes to see this to get a sense of how design thinking can re-make patient and clinician experience.

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