Designing Health Systems + Creating Effective Design Workshops with Sean Molloy — DT101 E44

Sean works in the healthcare industry as a Director of Patient Quality Experience at North York General Hospital in Toronto, Canada. We talk about Sean’s evolution into design thinking, how he dug deep and studied design, and how he felt that moving into this way of thinking was natural for him. Sean speaks of his career movement at North York General Hospital, how he integrates design into every aspect of the hospital, and Sean’s dream of creating a healthcare system that feels right to everyone. Show host: Dawan Stanford.

Show Summary

Sean has been working in healthcare for 25 years, and currently works at a large community hospital. The element he enjoys the most is the ability to positively impact people’s lives every day. He made his way into quality improvement and continued to move up the ladder to his current position.

His journey into design started with listening to a presentation from the Vice President of Innovation at Kaiser, who came to Sean’s hospital to give a talk about leveraging design and design thinking. Sean shifted his process to design thinking and started to integrate design thinking into his position with cancer research. In his Master’s program, he learned how to think about innovation and how to map out an innovation plan, then seeing where design fits into the project.

We’ll talk about how to create a design thinking workshop, why people-centered innovation is now popular in healthcare, and how Sean believes healthcare can create a better future. Show Host: Dawan Stanford

Listen in to learn:

  • How to move towards human-centered care and the tools and methods to create design-centered solutions
  • Why Sean found power in designing with people who weren’t in the healthcare field
  • The foundational elements of healthcare and design
  • Reasons why change and change management is complex in healthcare
  • How design and design thinking have come to a critical mass in healthcare

Our Guest’s Bio

Sean is the Director of Quality, Patient- and Family-Centered Care and Patient Flow at North York General Hospital in Toronto, Canada. He holds a Master’s of Design degree from OCAD University in Toronto, with a research interest in how health systems are using design for innovation and improvement.

He also teaches in the Design for Health program at OCAD and mentors many students through internships and studio courses at the hospital, advancing the organization’s academic mandate while offering students real-life opportunities to hone their design skills and build their careers.

Sean is passionate about the potential of people-centered innovation in healthcare, and he has led multiple design engagements over the last 10 years, spanning from the individual level to systems-level innovation. He is committed to advancing patient and community voices into health system transformation, and leveraging design as a critical enabler of building a brighter future for those living in our communities.

Show Highlights

[02:00] Sean explains his transition from multiple healthcare roles to his current role of quality control.
[04:37] He remembers the VP from Kaiser coming to speak at his workplace and how it sparked his interest in design.
[05:48] Sean decides to pursue his Master’s in Design in Toronto, Canada.
[08:03] He describes how coursework for his Master’s in Design shaped how he thinks about healthcare and design
[10:13] How innovation is playing out in Sean’s current work.
[15:06] Co-creating, co-designing, and co-exploring design solutions.
[24:12] Advice Sean gives to designers who are about to apply service design inside a healthcare system.
[26:15] The heart of the designer’s role in a healthcare system.
[28:21] How to make the most out of making systems visible.
[32:27] The importance of revealing causal loops inside a system.
[34:23] What Sean learned from studying over 30 design labs inside healthcare organizations. Why these labs often fail.
[40:45] How to contact Sean and his social media platforms.


Design Thinking 101
Fluid Hive Design Innovation
Sean Malloy on Twitter
Sean Malloy on LinkedIn
A Review of Design Labs as a Model for Healthcare Innovation by Sean Molloy
North York General Hospital
OCAD: Design for Health
This is Service Design Doing
Book Recommendation: Design for Care: Innovating Healthcare Experience by Peter Jones
Book Recommendation: Thinking in Services: Encoding and Expressing Strategy through Design by Majid Iqbal

Design Thinking 101 Episodes You Might Like

Designer’s Role in Healthcare & Public Health + Studio Thinking with Jess Roberts — DT101 E21

Nursing + Service Design + Healthcare Innovation with Brittany Merkle — DT101 E38

Healthcare Design Teams + Wellness + ScienceXDesign with Chris McCarthy — DT101 E24

Resources — Thinking and Solving Like a Designer


Fluid Hive’s Designing Facilitation Course launches soon. Get notified when enrollment opens.

Good events are essential when creating effective solutions while thinking and acting like a designer. Designing Facilitation shows you how to create effective, engaging events that are easy to lead.

You’ll learn how to apply the Event Design Questions, use over 20 event creation tools, how to avoid common facilitation traps, and make the most of every second people spend at your events. Notify me when the course launches!

Ready to learn new ways to think and solve like a designer today? Enroll in Framing: Creating Better Solutions by Finding More Valuable Problems to Solve — from Fluid Hive’s Design Thinking 101 Learning.


Ask Like a Designer — Monthly articles with design ideas, methods, frameworks, templates, and a question-fueled approach to design-driven innovation. Discover new ways to think and solve like a designer.

Sample pages from inside Fluid Hive's Innovation Shield


Download Fluid Hive's Innovation Shield: a guide to avoiding innovation traps by asking 9 of Fluid Hive's Design Thinking Questions.

Your Ask Like a Designer Studio

Your Ask Like a Designer Studio connects you with people interesed in thinking and solving like a designer.

Enjoy invitations to free, live Studio events. Receive articles, Design Thinking 101 podcast updates, tips, tools, templates, workshop information, and more to help you create and perform!

Innovation Smart Start Webinar

Your next project could be easier, faster and more effective if you play smart at the start. In this webinar Dr. Dawan Stanford will teach you ways to ask like a designer so your projects succeed more often and your revenue grows.