Archive for September, 2016


Q+A with Heidi Ylvisaker, Design Researcher

Tuesday, September 27th, 2016

Heidi has always felt responsible for improving the lives of others. This passion led her to Iowa State University, earning a degree in graphic design for healthcare. When she’s not working as a Design Researcher at Worrell, Heidi can be found volunteering, exploring hole-in-the-wall restaurants and running along the river with her local running club.

Where can you be found on the weekends?
I believe life is best spent outdoors. Weather permitting, I love exploring the Twin Cities running trails–West River Parkway is my current favorite– or escaping the city for a secluded camping trip with close family and friends.

What is your secret to conducting amazing research?
I always do a dry run before conducting interviews in the field. By becoming comfortable with interview materials and activities, I can modify the questions, making the necessary changes that allow me to gather richer insights from patients and families. When it comes to design research, practice definitely makes perfect.

Also, I’ve found that the aphorism “there is no such thing as a dumb question” is especially true for design research. While it may feel uncomfortable asking the obvious, often times those “dumb questions” are answered with ‘that’s just the way it is.’ When you probe into why that’s the standard, and if it has to be the standard, you start to uncover some exciting areas for innovation.

What is something outside of work in which you consider yourself an expert?
Maybe not an expert, but I love connecting people with other people. If someone is new in town, I’m one of the first to try and get them connected to a specific activity or group of friends. I believe that there is always an opportunity for fulfilling human connection, so I try to instigate that for others.

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Posted in Culture, Design, New Hire, Research | No Comments »

Virtual Realities – 4 Promising Healthcare Applications for VR

Tuesday, September 27th, 2016

Once reserved for entertainment and gaming, virtual reality (VR) has now firmly established itself as a legitimate platform for improving healthcare. But, with all of the hype it can be hard to differentiate between the applications that are most likely to fizzle out and which will offer the greatest impact on the practice of medicine. To provide some clarity, we talked with Dr. Daniel Kraft, physician, entrepreneur and chairman of the Exponential Medicine Conference. The following includes his take on the pockets of medicine that are already experiencing the greatest VR advancements, with examples of the teams and technologies responsible for the innovation.


Medical Education:
For years we’ve seen VR simulation technologies used for healthcare education and training. Companies such as ImmersiveTouch, VirtaMed and Medical Realities are combining 360 video and 3D interactive content to develop cutting-edge learning programs that place physicians and students inside a digitally replicated operating environment.

These technologies provide physicians and students with a risk-free setting to practice life-saving procedures and techniques–especially ones that are not commonly performed–while gathering usability feedback along the way.


Pain Management:
There are a number of cognitive distraction methods designed to decrease patient pain and anxiety. Applied VR, for example, is a mobile platform designed to distract a patient by immersing them in a simulated world filled with interactive games. Other innovations such as SnowWorld, an app that provides therapeutic VR for burn victims, as well as experimental advancements in phantom-limb pain management, prove that there are drug-free pain management alternatives that can be used within, and outside of, clinical care settings.

Treating Mental Illness:
Exposure therapy is the standard for treating some mental illnesses. Enter VR in place of, or in addition to, those experiences and you have a reasonably low cost, flexible, low risk solution for treating mental illness.

Bravemind is a software designed for veterans that suffer from PTSD, where patients are immersed into a simulated battlefield scene, allowing them to gradually relive the trauma under the care and supervision of a clinician. Companies such as Virtually Better and PHOBOS provide similar exposure therapy to help patients cope with phobias and other anxiety disorders.

Virtual reality has also unlocked new ways of relaxing and calming the body. DEEP and Zen Zone, both Google Cardboard apps, offer peaceful, guided meditation experiences for treating anxiety and panic attacks.

Exercise & Physical Therapy:
A huge shift is happening in the fitness industry as many startups–such as VirZoom, Widerun and BlueGoji–couple cardio routines with VR to change the way we exercise.

Taking it a step further, VR is also starting to play a larger role in physical therapy, where some patients are being offered an exercise regimen that includes VR, in place of invasive surgery and/or drugs. Companies like Gesturetek Health is one such company.

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Posted in Design, Digital Health, Emerging Technologies, Healthcare, Research, User Experience | No Comments »

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