Healthcare Research Space

How can designers work with patients and medical professionals to meet healthcare challenges for the 21st century?

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Cutting Edge

The Healthcare Research Space investigates effective, systems-based design solutions to current and future healthcare challenges. We carry out research with patients and clinicians, and collaborate through the processes of co-design and evaluation, working with industry partners to help to bring ideas to commercial reality.

A significant finding of the 2002-2003 study into design and patient safety, undertaken by the Royal College of Art, Cambridge and Surrey universities, was that the NHS is well behind other modern organisations in that it has little understanding of design and no strategy for managing and directing it. Progressive companies use design strategically and coherently across all their activities to develop the new products and services that bring business success and to enhance brand values.

Current research questions

  • What is the form of a healthcare system that sustainably and affordably provides the highest levels of clinical effectiveness, patient experience and safety?
  • What are the types and sources of medical error, where do they occur and how can they be prioritised and understood in order to reduce their impact through design?
  • What role can design of products, systems and campaigns play in addressing current and anticipated healthcare challenges, such as the ageing demographic, overstretched healthcare budgets, emerging but expensive treatment technologies, and increasing prevalence of obesity, diabetes and dementia, whilst championing safety, dignity and the patient experience?
  • What are the human factors beyond research that influence the successful adoption of healthcare design solutions?


A core focus of project work at the Helen Hamlyn Centre for Design has been on practical exemplars to demonstrate how design can be successfully used to enhance patient safety and improve patient outcomes. Evidence-based medicine is a cornerstone of modern healthcare and our goal is to develop the methodologies and knowledge base to underpin an equivalent approach to design in healthcare. In meeting this challenge we are working in five broad areas, in collaboration with the NHS, leading research institutions, industry and voluntary sector organisations.

Projects are divided into three themes:

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