• Type to search or press enter for full results.
Type to search or press enter for full results.



Why Research Driven Design is The Best Method for Connecting People to Your Products with Stuart Karten, President at Karten Design
Episode 142

Stuart Karten, President at Karten Design

Why Research Driven Design is The Best Method for Connecting People to Your Product

Helping clients figure out wherethey should focus their efforts and providing the highest level of engagement

Why Research Driven Design is The Best Method for Connecting People to Your Products with Stuart Karten, President at Karten Design

Episode 142

Why Research Driven Design is The Best Method for Connecting People to Your Products with Stuart Karten, President at Karten Design

Thanks for tuning in to the Outcomes Rocket podcast where we chat with today’s most successful and inspiring health leaders. I want to personally invite you to our first inaugural Healthcare Thinkathon. It’s a conference that the Outcomes Rocket and the IU Center for Health Innovation and Implementation Sciences has teamed up on. We’re going to put together silo crushing practices just like we do here on the podcast except it’s going to be live with inspiring keynotes and panelists to set the tone we’re conducting a meeting where you can be part of drafting the blueprint for the future of healthcare. That’s right. You could be a founding member of this group of talented industry and practitioner leaders. Join me and 200 other inspiring health leaders for the first inaugural. Healthcare Thinkathon. It’s an event that you’re not going to want to miss. And since there’s only 200 tickets available you’re gonna want to act soon. So how do you learn more. Just go to outcomesrocket.health/conference. For more details on how to attend that’s outcomesrocket.health/conference and you’ll be able to get all the info that you need on this amazing health care thinkathon that’s outcomesrocket.health/conference.

Welcome back once again to the outcomes rocket podcast where we chat with today’s most successful and inspiring health leaders. I really thank you for tuning in once again and I invite you to go to outcomesrocket.health/reviews where you could rate and review today’s podcast because we have an amazing contributor to the design of health and outcomes. His name is Stuart Karten. He is the president of Karten design. It’s an award winning Los Angeles based design and innovation consultancy Karten design. Stuart is a graduate of the Rhode Island School of Design and has worked for gold medical products Mattel and Baxter medical products until founding Karten design. He’s a founding member of the University of Southern California Center for Body Computing and is a member of the Stanford Medicine x Council of Healthcare designers. Stewart serves on the adhoc data and analytics committee for Presbyterian Health Care Services where he’s pinpointing solutions that both create impact and resonate with end users. In addition he’s providing design centric perspective and expertise as a member of the board for rising healthcare startups. I walk and rest EQ. Stewart is also a board member at Board of Regents for the DA Vinci design high school. He’s obviously got a foot print in design within health and I thought it’d be great to have him on the podcast or just want to give you a warm welcome my friend.

Saul, nice to meet you. Glad to be here.

So anything that I missed there that you want to chime in on.

The only thing that’s not on there is the work that I’ve been doing with seniors TechStars which is an accelerator that lives under the roof of the seniors hospital here in L.A. and I’ve been a mentor to them for the last three cohorts and that’s a really fun interesting experience.

Well you’re certainly have your web spun out wide. STEWART So I’m curious what is it that just got you into health to begin with.

Well it goes back 30 plus years ago when I graduated from Rissi. I came pretty much straight to L.A. and one of the first jobs I had was where I worked in the Barbie group and then I was recruited away to a position over at Baxter medical and that’s when so the affinity for doing healthcare and medical products to all. And then in 1984 when I started the firm foundation the work that I did was in the health care space.

So you definitely have had your broad range of time in the business and you’ve seen a lot. What do you think is a hot topic that needs to be an every medical leaders agenda, Stuart, and what are you guys doing at Karten to address it.

Well I think sort of broadly speaking the thing that I think everybody should be paying attention to is the consumerization of health care. And I think it’s happening everything from the digital experiences that are being created to digital health tools all the way down to how experiences are being created around products and the clinical setting. And so you know our work even though we don’t at the moment we’re doing probably 90 something percent in the health Medtech space. Prior to that we did a lot of work in the consumer electronics space and a lot of the learnings that we developed during those kinds of products where people actually have choice and make a decision based on an emotional connection to create experiences and products that stand out in order to connect with people on that level. All that learning were put to good use in the healthcare space to try to create the experiences and products that people actually want and they will actually choose over other experiences.

That’s really interesting. Stuart and now are you thinking about products by way of clinician users and physician users or are you thinking more like consumer products.

I’m talking across the entire range. To me the Digital Health Rural is really mostly focused on the consumer side of things right. And that’s when people think of the consumerization of healthcare and you really need to you know open up an app like heal or whatever to you know instantly access health care or a knee relative to a medical or health care situation. But what we find as we do in-depth research in the clinical settings that people show up at those experiences bring with them what they learn from operating devices in the consumer space and the role that surrounds them that is outside their profession. And they have high expectations for what that experience should be like based on what their experience outside of the cleaning settings. So having that relevance and that similar experience is what we’re seeing people need or want.

For sure there’s definitely continuity in that frame and maybe you could share with the listeners steward how you guys have improved outcomes through some of the design that you’ve done.

Yeah. Our work starts can start just really is actually helping clients figure out whether they should focus their efforts and then do the hard work in understanding the entire ecosystem. We call it voice of the ecosystem in the world and have a ruling one user it’s going to be whole bunch of people that are involved in the overall experience and you know what we’re trying to do is basically create products people are engaged with and ultimately we try to provide experience to get to the highest level of engagement which is evangelism centralizing around our products experiences. That’s what an extraordinary experience is. But now healthcare space sometimes it doesn’t get all the way up to that level. But at least it’s meaningful and pleasurable. At least that’s what we’re trying to do and that it’s going to do with clinical work as well as your patients in their own healthcare and our outcomes.

That’s super interesting and listeners something to think about right. Because as we begin to address these different initiatives that we have with our patients or with our communities as we continue to try to dive deeper into into managing health of communities having a product or our solution like Stuart’s talking about the interfaces easily and pleasurably with the end user is really going to make a difference by way of adoption. Did you guys think of any any way that you’ve improved adoption store by design.

Yeah there’s a number of products that we work on. There was an app that we were it was a project that we did in conjunction with the U.S. he set up a body computing where an awesome site. It a very simple set. If we were to release the data that we’ve collected from people’s CDs are kind of created for winners. Yes people do benefit with that. And what we did is we created an app that really was based around the mantra of living longer and staying out of the hospital and because those ICDs are little supercomputers in your chest there’s just an amazing amount of data. An amazing amount of kind of algorithms that you develop that are used to connect with people. And yet we do not used to operate messages where you start out by presenting some very simple information and you actually know what they do. If they ask who wants what is the app itself and then you get ready for a three hour those like because it’s all people up at night or how many times you can ask questions that are sort of magical like you know this. As an example I slowly got up three times last night. Your medication. So will you respond right. Yes. And I’m having trouble. I would like to track. The offering them that and he saw that. Had a lot of great feedback and now it’s not scientific.

I mean that’s super interesting and what a great way to dive into some major data collection to help outcomes in a very insightful way. You haven’t always had success to or maybe you’ve had a setback at some point. And we learn more from our setbacks as leaders then the good times can you share with the listeners a time when you had a setback and what you learn from it.

Sure. So we’ve been designing hearing aids for 10 plus years for our client Starkie. And one of the things that we discovered very early on in the research we did with people who were hearing aids is that they are personally enticed by it and a lot of that stigma came from how they actually control the hearing aids. So they were tribal tensions and also and in raising volume or lower interchange settings. So just by the sheer fact that they are leaving behind their ear it appeared that that was drawing attention to themselves so this is now going back to when I was first introduced and then was the passive switch element of the iPhone meaning it’s actions Y. And just through great control through that and we had this idea to actually put that on the hearing aid. So no more natural way to turn the volume up and down. With passengers switch. And our biggest concern initially was people in their 60s 80s or 90s really understand that kind of gestural controls. And so we went about the business of building up prototypes we use sound in addition to the. Actual swiping and gesturing. And we thought we had done a lot of homework and you know Starkie thought this was a great new innovation and we brought it to market only to find out that there was really no uptake on it. No interest. And it was a huge learning curve. People had to go through to try to understand what it meant to control Irrunytju gestures. Now I’d like to think it was just something that’s maybe ahead of its time because we obviously have a generation of people who are grown up on gestural control.

That’s interesting so definitely a good learning lesson. Sounds like you haven’t tossed it but you shelved that for a potential future use case.

Yeah it was a bit of a wakeup call for us when you know it just didn’t have the market uptake. We thought it would.

What would you do differently if you had to go back to that moment.

You know that’s kind of hard. I’m not sure. I think we probably would have done a lot more testing more quantitative testing and just qualitative testing.

Just grown the number of users that you got feedback from.


Now a great feedback. You know oftentimes we could be convinced by five or ten people and we need more.

Yeah exactly and I think it’s to some degree I think we all fell prey to what I see with other clients sometimes coming in the as we were little enamored with technology. You wanted it so badly versus you know it was. Do you think

That’s a great call out a great story and a great lesson. Stuart Really thank you for sharing that. What would you say one of your proudest medical leadership experiences that you’ve experienced today.

I think going back to Starkie back in 2003 one of the first products designed for them was called the zone. And it won a national design award which I took it to the White House to the state. So Michelle Obama and I have my photo taken with her and be honored at the White House. That is definitely a career highlight.

That is awesome. Congratulations. Did you have fun over there.

We had a lot of fun. It was pretty amazing. You know there was a lot of buildup and like wow this is going to be like and then it was pretty casual and then you know I had maybe 30 seconds to chit chat with her and she was amusing. And it was pretty cool

That’s awesome and congratulations to you and your team on that accolade. Thank you. So tell us a little bit about an exciting project or focus. I know you have many but out of all the ones that you have going on right now what would you want to highlight here for the listeners.

Well there’s really two the one that we’re really deep involved in is neuromodulation your listeners understand what that is but it’s in simple terms it’s putting implants in people’s bodies hooking them up to various nerves and then using it to that different dishes. And what’s been exciting is you know typically my office is fairly small we’re all under 30 people and we can’t really take on competing science because we can’t have the ability to firewall things. In this case because we’ve become experts in the clinical experience and the patient experience around neuromodulation we’ve been working with multiple companies. They’re all going after different conditions so Axon X is a company we’ve been working with going after Iraq ladder. We’ve been working with a company called until it gets to be chronic migraine and we’ve been working with other companies on spinal cord solutions. So as a result we really deep in understanding what a person goes through when they get an implant and then it means that the task of getting it power charging it as well as having the ability to control it and applying that across different conditions and becoming somewhat experts in all of those different conditions as well. And then the other area that I’m really excited about is we’re reviewing a major plumbing company that has a huge presence in the bathroom. They make Sing’s vanity’s mirrors all the accoutrements of the bathroom. And helping them start moving towards really embracing the bathroom as the health of the future bathroom is really going to be whether they take the distance or not. I believe that there will be players and companies and partners who will embrace the fact that that is where our that’s where we do well and that there’s huge opportunity across people’s entire lifespan. So think about it you can use technology to help and connectedness to help with potty training you can help teenagers with acne can help people in their 20s with sexual health. And then of course as you know that’s kind of where the vaccine changes currently we might be grammar reales or a. Higher toilet or a shower having it be able to affect so many of the life stages and bring new value to it I’m super excited about that as.

A very fascinating thought Stuart. And of course I would expect that from you always taking it from fresh angles and listeners think about it. You know you’ve got Alexa and Google sound in your living room. What can be happening in the bathroom. And sure enough the folks at Karten designer are working on it. Stuart you always throw some interesting things for us to think about. What would you say is for you within the next five to ten years. The ideal spot where you see Stuart Karten contributing and how well you know I think I’ve watched over the course of my career and the career of the firm that more and more people are understanding the value that design can bring into the process and I see that happening at a higher level I think we live in that nexus of understanding technology understanding the ecosystem of the medical world but it’s really coming down to people and understanding that level going beyond just cognitive capabilities and physical capabilities and understanding them from a developmental standpoint as well as most importantly from an emotional standpoint because that’s ultimately how you’re going to connect with people and get Gage whatever it is you’re really you’re trying to help them whether they turn out.

So yeah for sure not exciting and we’re definitely excited to keep tracking the progress that you and your firm are making. So let’s dive into this. Let’s pretend you and I are building a medical leadership course on what it takes to be successful on health today. It’s no 101 with Stuart Karten on health outcomes and I’d love to just write the syllabus with you. I’ve got four questions lightning round style followed by a book that you recommend to our listeners. You ready.

All right. Let’s go.

Awesome. What’s the best way to improve health outcomes.

I think just sort of touched on it just a second ago which is to really focus on the targeted users and really understand the ecosystem who are all the people that are in there touching it or touch points along the way and making sure we can bring convert data to information for them when they want it.

What’s the biggest mistake or pitfall to avoid.

I saw the touch earlier as well. I see a lot of people just falling in love with their technology and just be so blinded by the fact that they think they have something new and different which may be the case. That doesn’t mean that people aren’t going to use.

Stuart. How do you do a gut check for that right. It is something that I think many of us fall victim to. What’s a good gut check that you recommend to the listeners on how to avoid.

Well the process we use is fall fell forward fast. So what want to do is before you invest a lot of time and energy create what we call low fidelity prototypes such as drawing storyboards foamcore models anything that can communicate what the solution is that you’re bringing and get it out in front of users and get their feedback and learn from it and don’t be afraid to iterate few times to make sure that you’ve got something that is resonating pople

Love it. You got used 3D printers.

Yes we do.

That’s kind of a quick way to do it right.

We sometimes yes that is a quick way to do it sometimes we really don’t know fidelity we’ll use foamcore and UPC and tubing just to let people have something they can all in and build on their own cocreator. So we try not to impose our own predispositions towards technology.

That’s so great you know and that’s a good message for all of us listeners. The more simple you can keep it the better especially at the beginning. Stuart thank you for that. How do you stay relevant despite constant change.

Well I think what we do is we live in the future that is really what people come to us for. And I think it’s always looking back and understanding the trajectory of where things are coming and also using that as a way to eyewear The future isn’t sort of flip flopping back and forth to make sure you’re on that correct pathway to understand what that change has been and what a change to be positive future forward.

What’s one area of focus that should drive everything in an organization focused on health.

It’s a little broad that I would say really focusing on creativity and making sure that people have the power to be creative to develop a new and different. And they also have the right to fail. I think that’s really critical in terms of making sure that you building an organization that could have longevity is making sure that either organizational culture or group within the organization has been deemed a right to fail and that they’re willing to do that and that as a result they won’t lose their jobs.

Love it. What book would you recommend to the listener Stuart.

My favorite book is The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg. Just a great book around you know how people have ingrained patterns and habits and ceremonies and Karten design. Here we believe that if you’re going to get something new do something new or different in line with their existing chances. He’s captured that very nicely.

What a great message. Listeners don’t worry about writing any of this down on the syllabus or podcast. Just go to outcomesrocket.health/karten and that’s Stewart’s last name as well as the name of his company Karten design. You could see all the showboats as well as links to the things that we’ve discussed the book his company all of the projects that he’s been working on and talking to us about. STEWART This has been a ton of fun. I’d love if you could just share your closing thought with the listeners and the best place where they can get in touch with you.

Yeah I think I kind of hit on most the things I believe in and that we practice here current design. The best way to reach us is either to me directly is stuart@kartendesign.com or our Web page kartendesign.com. Outstanding. Listen Stuart it’s been fun. I’ve enjoyed our time and I know listeners will take back some good words of wisdom. You know how to keep it short and sweet and to the point. So we really appreciate your time my friend.

Thanks Saul.

Thanks for tuning into the outcomes rocket podcast if you want the show notes, inspiration, transcripts and everything that we talked about on this episode. Just go to outcomesrocket.health. And again don’t forget to check out the amazing Healthcare Thinkathon where we could get together took form the blueprint for the future of healthcare. You can find more information on that and how to get involved in our theme which is implementation is innovation. Just go to outcomesrocket.health/conference that’s outcomesrocket.health/conference be one of the 200 that will participate. Looking forward to seeing you there.

Automatically convert audio to text with Sonix

Recommended Book:

The Power of Habit

Best Way to Contact Stuart:


Mentioned Link:


Episode Sponsor: