Imperial College London

Healthcare and Design: New programme launching for healthcare innovators


HELIX Centre new Masters course

Our HELIX Centre for Design in Healthcare to launch new Masters programme.

In October 2016, the first cohort of students - doctors, healthcare professionals and designers - will arrive in London to start a new Masters programme in Healthcare and Design hosted by the Institute of Global Health Innovation’s HELIX Centre.

Launched in Autumn 2013, HELIX is a collaborative Centre between the Royal College of Art (RCA) and the Institute and is based at St Mary’s Hospital. It is one of only a handful of practices in the world to place designers alongside technologists, engineers and entrepreneurs within a working clinical environment. In collaboration with the NHS and highprofile industrial and academic partners, HELIX staff are tasked with developing user-focused, patient-centred healthcare solutions directed at some of the universal and most pressing challenges facing human health.

The HELIX Centre

The HELIX Centre is one of the only design studios housed within a hospital.

What can design bring to healthcare?

In the uniquely complex field of healthcare, where resources are scarce, and patients’ needs and demands are growing and changing, we need new ideas and approaches to deliver rapid and sustainable change. The design process is one such approach: the best designers take complex, continuously changing or undefined problems, and find tangible solutions. Increasingly, we are realising that poorly designed healthcare services and tools can have significant consequences, and that design-led innovation in healthcare can lead to improved patient experience, as well as better clinical outcomes.

Clinicians, healthcare professionals and other frontline staff have the knowledge and insight to identify failings in the system, and opportunities for improvement. Design professionals have the fresh perspective necessary to  innovate in complex systems, and the technical methods to build impactful solutions. The Healthcare and Design Masters programme brings these two groups together, to learn and work collaboratively.

What’s included in the programme?

Students will learn from global leaders in healthcare innovation and design from Imperial College London and the Royal College of Art, as well as guest lecturers from industry, startups, venture capital funds, and renowned design and business schools.

The course is part time, delivered in 4 intense 2-week blocks of teaching over 2 years, meaning that students can continue to work and bring their  professional experience to the classroom, and take insights from their Masters back to their workplace.

This Masters course has its roots our design studio, the HELIX centre. At HELIX  our team of designers also work collaboratively with clinical practitioners at St Mary’s Hospital in central London, using that unique insight to respond quickly to complex healthcare issues, turning ideas into prototype products, processes and services.

Why design, and why now?

I spoke with two of the programme leads on the new Masters programme, Dr Dominic King, an academic surgeon at Imperial College, and co-founder of Hark, and Professor Ashley Hall, a Professor of Design Innovation at the Royal College of Art, to understand the opportunity that this new course presents to designers and healthcare professionals to move into this hugely exciting space at the intersection of healthcare and design.

Professor Hall emphasised the “huge boom in service and experience design” that has occurred over the last few years, expanding design’s remit from one focussed on aesthetics and functionality, and placing users’ experience at the heart of the design process. As a clinician, being exposed to the design approach, and working side by side with designers, will open up new ways of thinking about problems and the tools to build solutions.  For designers, collaborating with clinicians - will bring unparalleled insight and a deep understanding of how to work operate in the sector.

What can I get out of it?

Dr King also noted the recent explosion in “clinician-led innovation and entrepreneurship” in healthcare. One such example is Hark, a transformative clinical task management app, which prioritises clinical activity across a hospital, and provides actionable insights from data to inform and support change in the way healthcare is delivered. Hark was recently acquired by Google DeepMind. The app was developed by Dr King and IGHI Director Professor the Lord Ara Darzi, both academic surgeons who work for the NHS, with input from other clinicians, nurses, software developers and designers. This is an exciting time for any clinician, healthcare professional, or designer looking to develop a new medical device or app.

The Healthcare and Design Masters programme provides an intense and academically rich environment in which to explore and develop real innovations. This course will give students access to a global network of healthcare innovators and entrepreneurs, and could be a stepping stone to changing sector; launching your own venture; or gaining the tools and experience necessary to lead innovation in your workplace.


  • Register your interest here, and we will notify you when applications open
  • Read more about the programme content and application process on the Imperial College and RCA websites.
  • Come along to an information session hosted by the HELIX Centre on April 4th. Sign up here
  • Join the conversation on twitter: @HELIXCentre


Jo Seed

Jo Seed
Institute of Global Health Innovation

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