Making sense of design thinking: A primer for medical teachers

Med Teach. 2021 Jan 26;1-14. doi: 10.1080/0142159X.2021.1874327. Online ahead of print.

Abstract

An increasing number of medical teachers have taken an interest in design thinking, which has been used for years in business, law, and technology sectors. Yet, what does design thinking mean, and how has it been applied in medical education? This commentary discusses design thinking from multiple perspectives. First, it overviews, briefly, the historical development of design thinking, which medical education literature has seldom addressed in detail. Second, it synthesizes three current understandings of design thinking across disciplines: design thinking as a cognitive style, as a process of creativity and innovation, and as an organizational attribute. Third, it presents a 'roundup' of design thinking initiatives that have been applied at preclinical and clinical levels, including programs, courses, workshops, and hackathons. To conclude, the commentary suggests future directions for medical teachers interested in design thinking. Although design thinking is showing promise in medical education, there is substantial work to be done theoretically and practically.

Keywords: Creativity; design thinking; innovation; medical education; problem-solving.