The Judges Have Spoken: Decision Aid Upgrade Design Challenge Winners Announced

“The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.”
– George Bernard Shaw

Learning to clearly and empathetically explain the benefits and tradeoffs of treatment options to patients with advanced cancer is difficult for most oncologists. Patients often are still grappling with the full gravity of their diagnosis and are struggling with decisions that will affect the quality of their lives and those of their loved ones.

The California HealthCare Foundation (CHCF), a health policy foundation focused on creating a more responsive, patient-centered health care system, was interested in helping with this problem. They partnered with Mad*Pow and Health 2.0 on a design challenge to encourage designers and healthcare innovators to reimagine the tools used to support conversations between providers and patients about treatment options.

Paul Kahn, Experience Design Director at Mad*Pow and advisor to the Challenge, said, “We asked teams to design a user experience for a deeply emotional time. The three winning solutions empower patients through technology. They provide information on treatment options in an easy to understand format, and offer opportunities for patients and providers to talk about next steps after diagnosis.”

The winners were selected by a panel of judges that include individuals with experience in advocacy for people with cancer, oncology clinical care, patient engagement, and shared decision-making.

Tom Smith, MD, a clinical oncologist from Johns Hopkins, said, “Oncologists need better tools and approaches to ensure that patients are fully engaged in making decisions that balance treatment options with quality of life. There are clear trade-offs that patients often don’t understand. It is very clear from the CanCORS study that patients don’t hear us about limits to their curability, or we don’t tell them effectively. It is also clear that those who do have the conversation with their health care providers get better care, do better planning, and are less distressed. We need better tools like these.”

The winners are:

First place: TreatmentTalk by team TK Design transforms the decision aid into a digital format with concise, colorful graphs to describe the possible outcomes of various treatment options for lung cancer. The tool allows for patients to include family members and friends in their decision making process as well as list personal goals for their treatment plan. Patients can also print out a summary to provide continued support outside of the doctor’s office.

Second place: Team LaSenda developed a tablet-based tool that acts as a checklist and a means to draw the patient and his physician into a meaningful discussion. The main program is physician-led shared resource, but there are also separate areas for both the physician and patient to explore independently. The physician can then walk through the decision aid during a side-by-side shared discussion. This platform also allows for EHR integration to customize the decision aid for each patient.

Third Place: RPM Innovations, LLC combined clear and simple infographics to represent outcomes and benefits among various treatment options with video modules to further educate the user.

The winners will share $10,000 in prize money for their novel and innovative work. They will also receive a design consultation with Mad*Pow to further refine their solutions.

Kate O’Malley, Senior Program Officer, High Value Care at CHCF, “It’s exciting to see so many creative approaches to a problem at the frontlines of communication between doctors and patients. We need more solutions like these in all areas of health care.”

The challenge was first announced at the HxRefactored conference on April 2, 2015 in Boston, MA.

For more information on the design challenge and the winning entries, visit

About the California HealthCare Foundation

The California HealthCare Foundation works as a catalyst to fulfill the promise of better healthcare for all Californians, supporting ideas and innovations that improve quality, increase efficiency, and lower the costs of care. For more information, visit

About Mad*Pow

Mad*Pow is a design agency that improves the experiences people have with technology, organizations and each other. Using human-centered design, Mad*Pow creates strong multi-channel experience strategies, intuitive digital experiences and streamlined processes for its clients. The company has offices in Boston, Portsmouth, NH, Louisville, KY and Oakland, CA. For more information, visit

About Health 2.0

Health 2.0 promotes, showcases, and catalyzes new technologies in health care through a worldwide series of conferences, code-a-thons, prize challenges, and leading market intelligence.

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