University of Pennsylvania Health System

Design for Social Impact graduate students have worked with the University of Pennsylvania Health System in different capacities for the past several semesters on a range of projects. UPHS is regarded as one of the leading health systems in the nation, and it includes 3 major hospitals in Philadelphia as well as an array of clinical practices. In the entire system there are over 20,000 employees working in over 60 interconnected and dispersed buildings in and around the region. Many of our projects have been in collaboration with the Center for Health Care Innovation, an interdisciplinary team of people that supports Penn Medicine by providing a set of tools to rapidly validate new ideas in a rigorous way.

As the role of design in health care has expanded, our partnership projects with UPHS have allowed students the opportunity to work on internally-facing issues with a very complex health organization as well as a number of patient experience issues. In this sense, students have learned valuable lessons with respect to organizational dynamics and change, patient services and customer experiences, and the role of design in fostering innovation within health care. Past projects with UPHS include:

Designing Conversations: Frameworks for Collaboration & Empowerment
2012 master’s thesis project by Matt Van Der Tuyn

Creating frameworks and tools that support the collaborative work of a range of individuals across the vertical and horizontal silos in the organization in order to. These support the adoption of new ways of learning, working and making decisions within the organization. Read the case study >>

Sustaining Organizational Culture Change
2013 master’s thesis project by Ben Hillson

By providing support between workshops that introduce innovation and the application of the learning, Ben created a role to support a team of healthcare employees as they applied innovation to their work. The results from this work not only reveal a strategy to strengthen the application of learning beyond the workshop, but it also provides a method for designers to improve the way they develop concepts with their clients. Read the case study >>

Designing Health: Fostering the Growth of a Healthy Workforce within Corporate Culture
2012 master’s thesis project by Sara Hall and Alaina Pineda

Working within UPHS, Sara and Alaina focused on designing a work environment that promotes and values employee health. Through the discovery process, they also identified the need to affect the decision-making process of the client and the much larger health system in order to reach those impactful outcomes. To try to make a good thing even better at the health system, they developed and implemented a series of design interventions to address the current challenges within the UPHS environment. Read the case study >>

Caught in the Middle: Roadblocks in Middle Management’s Path to Healthcare Innovation
2014 master’s thesis by Nidhi Jalwal

Middle managers have received little attention in healthcare organizations, yet they have a key role in healthcare innovation as facilitators. They influence healthcare innovation by distributing information, synthesizing it, mediating between strategy and day-to-day activities, and selling the ideas. Teamwork designs have become more popular in healthcare organizations. Because middle managers oversee these team initiatives, their potential influence has grown. This project’s aim was to design ways to illuminate the impediments that middle management faces as innovators within large healthcare organizations. Read the case study >>