Design Health Program

The Design Health Program is a patient-focused program that discovers pressing needs in healthcare and assembles teams from across engineering, business, medicine, and other disciplines to create real-world solutions. The program provides an immersive learning experience where teams don’t solve pre-defined problems, but actively identify, validate, and prioritize problems that will impact human health.

Through a partnership with the School of Medicine, members of each team will gather data and insight in the clinical environment and use structured ethnography tools to identify unmet, underserved and unarticulated needs. These needs will be analyzed and screened using market analysis, intellectual property assessments, and other tools before transitioning to solution generation. In the second half of the program, hundreds of solutions will be generated, screened, synthesized and prototyped to produce market-testable product concepts. In the final months, the team will develop business, regulatory, reimbursement, clinical and manufacturing plans to implement the product. The program will give participants a world-class education in medical innovation, mentorship from industry experts, and a polished product and business model that they can choose to take to market or use as a stepping stone in their own innovations.

All prospective participants should be willing to commit five to ten hours each week. Participants will receive coaching from experts in medicine, innovation and product development processes, entrepreneurship and engineering both internal and external to Duke. Individuals should not enter the program with a specific need or solution in mind; they must be willing to explore several opportunities through a structured discovery process.

The Design Health Program Format

Currently, the program is seeking applicants from the School of Medicine (residents, fellows, and third-year medical students), the School of Nursing (all programs), the Pratt School of Engineering (Graduate students), the Trinity School (Graduate Students), the Law School, and the Fuqua School of Business (2nd year MBA students). Exceptional Juniors and Seniors with design or product development experience may also be considered in Design Health 2 (Spring semester). PhD students and medical trainees will require the permission of their department to participate. 

Opportunities in the program open each semester:

In Design Health 1: Discover (FALL), fellows focus on aspects of upstream marketing, particularly needs-finding in the clinical environment using tools such as observational research and interviewing. Students work closely with Duke University Health System staff and may participate in needs-finding in the hospital environment; as such hospital policies around vaccinations, safety & confidentiality training will be required. Students participating in DH1 will need to be in the Durham area for clinical observations. 
In Design Health 2: Design (SPRING)fellows take the validated, unmet needs found in Design Health 1 and generate solutions/concepts to meet these needs. Fellows engage in prototyping products and business models, and learn the basics of IP, regulatory, clinical, and manufacturing strategies.
In Design Health 3: Deploy (FALL), fellows work on a need and solution that has already been identified by an interdisciplinary team. They prototype, refine, and test the solution, and create business strategies to deploy the product into the market. At the end of this course, students will have a product and business plan ready to seek external funding. Clinical observation is not required for this phase, though we do encourage (not require) participants to be in-person to prototype and test the product in our design facilities.