Digital Health Care Design: Coursework for Innovative Solutions for Aging Populations

I am participating in an massive online open course (MOOC) from the University of Copenhagen and Copenhagen Business School on the topic of Innovating Solutions for Aging Populations.

The free course is offered through Coursera; it started June 6th and runs until July 17th. You can read more about the course and sign up for future offerings at:

Week 5:  Digital Health Care Design

In this final module you will be introduced to digital design methods and how to explore the solution and the problem during the innovation process. You will learn how to frame the design problem through field studies and collaboration, and how to apply prototypes in your work.

This week’s lectures focused on digital design and how it plays a role in the innovation process. How to identify a (design) problem, how to explore the problem through studying and collaborating with others (including stakeholders), and analyze and reframe design problems into a useful product or service.

If we look at the My Day case example from Steno Diabetes Center, the overall purpose is to develop an e-health solution that supports people with diabetes in maintaining a diet that is healthy for their condition by mobilizing Steno’s specialist knowledge within the field. At first, the problem may appear as very clear. People with diabetes need help with managing their diet. But once you start looking into it, the roots of the problem are more complex. Why is it that many people with diabetes struggle with their diet? Is it because they don’t know what is healthy for them? Is it because they get tempted? Or forget about healthy diets when they eat? Or there is something completely different at stake. 

Participatory design (involving stakeholders in the design process), ethnographic studies (how will the innovation be perceived, used, and beneficial to populations), and re-framing the design problem are useful tools for innovating health care technology design.

There are also different design techniques which can be used to develop and test the eHealth prototype. First, a paper mock-up is used to outline and describe the eHealth innovation. Second, a fully functional software prototype is developed where the interface (how the user interacts with the technology) is made to look and feel like the final product. These allow for sketching out the initial design and consulting with others, usually leading to some changes in the design and improving the initial idea. The functional prototype allows for demonstrations and testing – where users can interact with the product/service and provide feedback on various aspects (usability, look and feel, functionality, etc.). These two types of prototyping are tools used to create the design and to test the design.


Q1. Different types of prototypes can be distinguished by their resolution (the level of detail by which they represent the final design) and their technical fidelity (how closely the prototype technically resembles the final product). In relation to this framework, what is a mock-up prototype and what is the purpose?

 A1. A simple (low resolution and low fidelity) prototype made out of e.g. paper and cardboard to visualize a concept and facilitate discussion between users and designers

Q2. Different types of prototypes are typically used at different stages in a digital project to serve different purposes. When and why is a high resolution and high fidelity prototype typically used?

A2. Towards the end of the project to evaluate the outcome of the design process, e.g. through a field study or a usability test

Q3. What is a wireframe prototype?

A3. A visual model, for instance developed using an IT tool, mainly used to communicate, but also to run initial tests of a design

Q4. Why is problematization important in a digital design process?

A4. To ensure that the project solves a relevant problem and to ensure sustained interest among the stakeholders of the project

Q5. When does problematization ideally take place in digital design?

A5. Mainly in the early phases but in principle throughout the project, to ensure that new insights into the problem produced by the project will be taken into account

Q6. Which method is particularly useful in a problematization process?

A6. Ethnographic studies of the actual problem settings to observe how the problems unfold in practice, and workshops, where the problems are discussed thoroughly with stakeholders of the project


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