Biodesign: Innovating for the Underserved

By Nathan Blair, Lyn Denend, Stefanos Zenios
2009 | Case No. OIT97
As director of the California HealthCare Foundation’s (CHCF) Innovations for the Underserved program, Margaret Laws’ goal was “to reduce barriers to efficient, affordable healthcare services for the underserved.” The path to achieving this goal took multiple forms, including improving the availability of specialty care for low-income, uninsured, non-English speaking and rural Californians. Specialty care was an incredibly constrained resource within the healthcare system, even for insured patients. In order to improve access, increasing specialist throughput became paramount; and this could often be achieved through process improvements. But in conversations with faculty from Stanford University’s Program in Biodesign (henceforth referred to as Biodesign), Laws became intrigued by the potential of new device technologies to improve throughput and increase capacity. The question was whether the biodesign innovation process taught at Stanford to develop devices for commercially attractive markets could be adapted to focus on the needs of the underserved, and particularly needs related to limited access to specialists. In order to answer that, the faculty from the Biodesign program and CHCF launched a pilot program that would undertake a condensed version of the identification phase of the biodesign innovation process, which included needs finding and needs filtering. This paper explores that project and what was learned.
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