Now enrolling: Design + healthcare certificate program

Our 5 month program starts January 2017


We help fit medicine to people

The Center for Collaborative Healthcare Design applies design and design methods to create, accelerate and test new healthcare interventions. We tackle complex, people-intensive projects. We bring together diverse healthcare and community-based collaborators to ensure solutions fit the everyday lives of patients, families, clinicians and staff—everyone counts in healthcare. We use grants and philanthropy to define our projects and produce scalable, evidence-based interventions that are valued by our sponsors.


Our Operating Model:

What it Takes to Fit Medicine to People

Center Collaborators

The Center works with multi-disciplinary teams and uses a multi-institutional development process to design and test new concepts.  

We work with medical scientists, epidemiologists, frontline providers, disease specialists, design researchers and communication designers. This deeply multi-disciplinary approach allows us to design solutions that both build on evidence-based research and fit the people and contexts in which those solutions will be used. 

The Center’s multi-institutional approach to testing is critical: this produces evidence that new interventions are not linked to local conditions but can function in diverse healthcare settings and work practices.

Academic/Research collaborators:

Johns Hopkins University

Cook County Health Hospital Systems

University of Chicago

UI Health Systems (UIC)

Sinai Hospital

Lurie Children’s Hospital

Rush University Health System

COPD Foundation

Denver Health + Hospital

PCORnet Clinical Data Research Network

Propeller Health

University of Arizona

University of Colorado

Illinois Institute of Technology

Community Collaborators

Chicago Public Schools (CPS) 

Chicago Dept of Public Health (CDPH)

Chicago Housing Authority (CHA)

Metropolitan Tenants Organization

Tenants Rights Organization

Chicago Asthma Consortium

Respiratory Health Association

Sinai Urban Health Institute


The Center works on complex, people-intensive health problems that are challenging because the systems built to serve them have been optimized for medicine, not people.

The Center performs foundational research into the everyday lives and behaviors of everyone involved in the activity system—patients, families, frontline clinicians and staff—to better understand the gap between proven medicine interventions and what people are ready and able to do.

Center Projects Include:

Helping hospitalized patients advocate for their care


Working with the University of Chicago to redesign in-room education material for patients who are suddenly hospitalized after an ER visit. New materials use visual narratives to promote the “activated patient,” showing them how to ask questions about their treatment, daily experience and transition to home.

CHICAGO II: Community-wide asthma intervention


Design a community-level asthma intervention that works across Chicago public schools, local clinics, emergency departments and families in Chicago's south and west side neighborhoods.

NIH/NHLBI U34-HL130787

RELIANCE: nationwide clinical trial for COPD


As Communication Center for this 24 site trial, design a suite of recruit + retention tools to create the seamless study experience for patients, their families and clinical staff.

PCORI-funded (contract number in process)

ISAAC: Sickle Cell Pain Management in the ER


Design a "pain passport" to help people with sickle cell communicate effectively with ER staff, so patients in crisis can get the intensive pain medication they need rather than labeled as drug-seekers.

NIH-funded (contract number in progress)

The CHICAGO Plan: Pediatric asthma discharge in the ER


A multi-site trial of three interventions for children presenting to the ER with uncontrolled asthma. Produced an award-winning discharge tool and suite of patient-centered in-home education materials.

PCORI AS 1307-05420ViewPDFbutton

CEERIAS: Stroke education in the community


Design a patient education tool that helps families recognize the early warning signs of a stroke and act quickly to seek emergency services.

Looking for funding!

Reducing opioid abuse + overdoses in Allegheny County

Design an enhanced ER discharge experience for patients and family after treatment for an opioid overdose; and create a user-friendly service that connects addicts seeking treatment to available programs.

Looking for funding!




Grants + Philanthropy

Grants are essential to the success of the Center, as they provide structure to projects, specify collaborators and roles, and define deadlines and desired outcomes. Federal grants also create prestige for our healthcare collaborators, and reward them for their time and use of facilities.

PCORI-funded grants include:
CHICAGO Plan (pediatric asthma)

pxNIHlogosvgNIH-funded grants include:
CHICAGO II (pediatric asthma)
ISAAC (sickle cell anemia)

Philanthropy plays a significant role in the Center by giving projects the resources they need to succeed. Federal funding typically fails to cover the real costs of doing the work. Project-based giving allows donors to support projects that matter to them. It also allows donors to engage in smaller, supplemental funding. Supplemental funding is an important form of support because it can provide crucial resources that turn good projects into powerful demonstration projects. The CHICAGO Plan project is a good example of how extra funds—in this case from the IIT Institute of Design—transformed the reach and capability of the team to create award-winning work.


Sponsors invest in the Center because they desire to build their innovation capacity and seek faster channels to promising interventions as they emerge.

The Center provides three benefits to sponsors:

Bi-annual events that demonstrate new interventions and new methods.
Sponsors can explore live projects and engage the teams. Sponsors are also encouraged to bring key staff to these events to promote internal learning: they can see how problems are framed, how multi-disciplinary design teams and methods are deployed, and how stakeholders are engaged throughout an initiative.

Implementation support for processes or interventions that fit the Sponsor organization.
Successful solutions are typically execution-dependent. For sponsors seeking to adopt what they see in the Center, we can counsel and consult on operational issues that are often at the heart of effective implementation.

Professionals trained in design methods.
Sponsors can build their innovation capacity by hiring graduates of the Institute of Design who have participated in the Center. Sponsors can also sponsor their staff to earn a certificate in design methods for healthcare through a tailored curriculum. Participating healthcare employees will learn by doing, becoming part of the Center’s teams and working side-by-side with graduate design students on funded healthcare projects.