Human-centred design at GE’s health-care unit [Business Week]

A mosquito net/tent designed to be custom-dyed by its owner
Business Week writes about how GE’s health-care unit went to design students at the Art Center College of Design for out-of-the-box ideas that are focused on people rather than technology, take a systems approach to problem solving, and are culturally specific. Together they set out a vision on how the company’s services might be delivered in developing nations 20 years from now.

General Electric’s health-care unit, which sells $15 billion a year worth of clunky X-ray machines, CAT-scan machines, and ultrasound testing equipment […] has long been a technology innovator. But it has historically tried to differentiate its products by getting better and faster readings from its instruments.

But to compete now, the company believes that it has to offer more than just better technology. GE wants to make medical tests easier on both the patients and the operators of the equipment, which means focusing on the human side of the equation, from ergonomics to emotions. How, for instance, could a traditionally monstrous CAT scan machine be designed to seem less ominous to patients already distressed by their medical condition? How could a machine be easier for the technician to use?

In addition to the primary human-centered goals, such design improvements should translate into more accurate readings and a leg up on rival manufacturers. “All of our competitors have similar technology,” admits Lawrence Murphy, the health-care unit’s chief designer. “We’re looking beyond the hardware. We’re looking at the patient’s journey.”

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