Kate Scheffler

Recognizing a Gap in the Delivery of Health Care: The Process of Optimizing Student Health



Guest Post written by: Kate Scheffler

Entering college is an exciting milestone in life. The excitement of meeting new people, becoming independent, and following your dreams highlights just a few of the wonderful college experiences. With this newfound independence also comes responsibility. As college students transition from living with their parents to living with other students in a new community and living environment, many changes occur for the students, including their health and for many, learning how to access health care on their own. Focusing on optimizing student’s health, innovators at Mayo Clinic’s Center for Innovation (CFI) in partnership with Arizona State University (ASU) are working on bridging the gap between students and health care.

Mayo Clinic, an institution that is driven by the idea of optimizing health care and patient experiences, embraces innovation. With a similar mission in mind, Dr. Michael Crow, President of ASU, visited Mayo Clinic’s Center for Innovation in March 2013 and shared his vision of creating the new American university. Recognizing a collaboration opportunity, the Center for Innovation partnered with ASU to observe student life, with a specific focus on health and wellness.

The project, titled “Well-being for Learning and Life Program”, focuses on identifying student health needs and developing products and or services to fill that need. The overall goal is to help students during their years at the university, but also in developing skills optimizing their health and well-being throughout their lives and those lives that they connect with.

For a project as complex as this, there are many inputs to the innovation process. The first step in developing insights and principles that guide the creation process with the students at the center is to understand what they value and the gaps that exist when it comes to their health and well-being. To help identify these unmet needs relating to the health of students, four motivated students from St. Olaf College participated in the Mayo Innovation Scholars Program.

This program matches students to various research objectives in one of Mayo’s areas of needs. As part of this program, they worked over eight weeks during the summer months to determine what college age students value in regards to their health and well-being. As part of this research phase, student led focus groups were conducted to gain a better grasp on what students identified as roadblocks to healthy living. Through surveys, student led forums, and countless hours of brainstorming, the work of these students resulted in the identification of four major themes inhibiting the overall health of students; these themes include: being stuck in a routine, living in the future, low self-understanding, and an inability to learn from failures. Based on these key themes one of Mayo’s medical students volunteered to refine these themes to potential opportunity areas.

As part of this project with ASU, they have volunteered their campus, staff and students as a laboratory to further CFI’s work. Barbara Barry, a design researcher at CFI, has embedded herself within the ASU community. She will be living on campus collecting data by engaging with students allowing them to play a role in the process. The insights from all three of these student areas -- St. Olaf, Mayo Medical students, and ASU) -- will provide the inspiration and evidence for moving into concepts and prototypes to test out different ideas optimizing the health of students. Concept development and prototyping are anticipated to begin in early 2014.

According to Barb Spurrier, the Administrative Director of Mayo Clinic Center for Innovation, the overarching theme of the project is to determine, “how to create a healthier world by moving the focus of health away from being centered around a doctor’s office and towards activating the patient.” As the “Well-being for Learning and Life” program moves forward there are many unknowns regarding the end-product of the project, but the overall goal of optimizing student health and well-being remains clear.


Kate Scheffler