Can Graphic Designers Shape the Future of Health Care?

Today, when you print a medical record, it looks like a cash register receipt. The information is all there, but it is not especially patient-friendly. And if you have a complex health condition, the record can quickly become unwieldy. It’s better than carrying around paper records, for sure, but as patients and consumers, we really need a better user experience—all in an effort to help patients and their family members better manage their health care.

Graphic designers have the unique ability to take something that exists, transform it, and make it more valuable and usable. By making a patient health record more usable, designers can help to prevent medical errors, empower patients to make smart health decisions, and even save lives.

The Office of the National Coordinator of Health Information Technology (ONC) and the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) are inviting graphic designers to rethink how a medical record is presented visually, making it more readable, downloadable, and easy for patients to use. So we are launching a collaborative effort to encourage designers across the country to improve the state of health care.

Graphic Design Contest on Re-imagined Health Record

Over the next six weeks, we are asking talented professionals to submit their take on a re-imagined health record. Then a panel of curators will select the best designs to exhibit in a showcase in Washington D.C. and online to inspire members of the health care industry.

The curators will pick a final design (that may combine elements of numerous designs) to be built and open-sourced on the code sharing site Github Exit Disclaimer. Our objective is to build the Bootstrap Exit Disclaimer for the patient health record.

With these tools, electronic health record software companies across the country should be able to:

  • Integrate the final design into their products,
  • Contribute to the open-source project and ultimately,
  • Help to provide patients with one of the most important tools available in their own health care arsenal.

The VA enthusiastically supports the open-source development of the selected design because it may enable them to improve MyHealtheVet—their patient portal. If the final design is used by the VA, it could touch the lives of millions of veterans and their families.

The health care and design community have come together to support this graphic design contest. We are proud and thankful to have the Designer Fund, California HealthCare Foundation, Luxr, and Rock Health as partners.

For More Information

Learn how you can participate in this graphic design contest Exit Disclaimer.  The call for submission ends on November 30, 2012.

For updates, follow @ProjectBlueBtn Exit Disclaimer


  1. Ruben Couto says:

    I confess I had never thought about graphic designers helping to… save lives!! But everything counts and a lot of factors come into the decison making process and every detail may be important!! So, this is a great initiative!

  2. Marianne Donnelly says:

    A clear to read design that helps someone to get the facts of their medical file is a help to everyone. I have been on some websites that have great information but it is too hard to access. I would agree with the comments in this article.

  3. Terry Marie says:

    Hi Ryan – Very interesting concept. It makes sense though… Clarity and speed are go hand-in-hand when it comes to patient intake and speedy diagnosis. It makes perfect sense to have medical records that can provide both in the event of an emergency.

  4. Alleli Aspili says:

    I am curious to see how the participants managed to see or re-imagine a health record together with a perspective of graphic design! Will you feature their submissions here? I hope you will, ‘cause I think this contest will mark another breakthrough in this industry. Good luck to the participants, BTW! I do admire graphic designers. 🙂

  5. Karen Chelotti says:

    If you mean by graphic design, establishing a standard format in order to make a patient health record more usable, I am writing to let you all know that the area of diagnostic test results, ONC’s Lab Results Initiative is already working on LOINC code standardization and there is a physician designed format available that is already employing the mappings when turning fragmented test results into usable information.
    With the expected onslaught of data ever increasing, these efforts have been recognized as necessary for both patient safety and to underpin the movement to contain costs.

  6. Rick Jones says:

    The additional challenge with access to all the additional information via EHR/PHR is health literacy. The work of a good graphic designer can complement experts in health literacy and simplify otherwise difficult content. Cant wait to see the winners…..

    • Karen Chelotti says:

      I could not agree more that health literacy is important for both physicians who have to keep up with the ever increasing number of tests available (especially in the area of genomics) and the patients for whom the term “participatory healthcare” has been coined.
      That is why it is exciting to see at least one company offering standardized diagnostic test results reporting in a way that mirrors how a physician approaches a patient’s care and makes it easy to explain the results to patients!

  7. david ramirez says:

    Great initiative. I believe that graphic design as such would definitely play an important role in presenting information in a usable manner. However it can only be part of an integral solution that includes website and internal system management (for the institutions that record and deliver the medical information).
    In the case of website it is all about user experience which at the same time can be applied for mobile users (cellphones and tablets).

  8. Julio Reguero says:

    When people outside or new to the design industry hear the word “design” they immediately associate it with graphic design, not knowing the distinction between the different kinds of design disciplines.

    This design challenge is definitely a job for User Experience Designers. Unlike graphic and visual designers who have as their main focus aesthetics and visual communication, ux designers are focused on users and how they interact with a product or service. In a more advance conversation you can say that Visual Design fall within the UX umbrella of various design disciplines.

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