Leading Innovation to Transform the OR

Exploring opportunities for new services in the healthcare industry

Client: Cardinal Health

Date: Fall 2019



General Situation 


Cardinal Health, a Fortune 20 Company and leader in healthcare products, recognized that in order to maintain their market share in different product categories they needed to compete on more than price alone. This industry-wide paradigm shift led them to reevaluate their current product offering, and look for a new competitive advantage to improve their product and service experience. 


Cardinal initially wanted to focus on particular innovations in product categories such as warming drapes, bariatric-sized gowns, drape ethnography, and explore how they might become an enabler of OR civility. Taking a closer look at the healthcare system, we realized Cardinal products are just a touchpoint in the overall experience of healthcare providers. Their journeys begin long before coming in contact with OR products, and many external factors impact the overall experience of the teams that deliver healthcare services. This prompted the opportunity to reframe the problem: What if Cardinal Health had a presence beyond the OR? 

Overarching Challenge

Adding value to healthcare providers through Cardinal Health products and services that optimize OR communication and interactions. 


Cost of NOT Finding a Solution    

It is important for Cardinal to grow and evolve their business offerings; the business model of continuing to pursue low margins on high volume production of their products could impact customer experience and long-term business success in an age when people value and seek good services over innovative products. Rather than catching up to new innovations, our team identified opportunities for Cardinal to lead in their industry and proposed reframing their business focus from product- to service-driven.




Our team gathered background and contextual research, focusing on OR team interactions —with products and between team members— considering the stakeholders involved, their place in the healthcare system, and where there might be challenges and opportunities to leverage. We synthesized our research to create a challenge map that helped us identify the key opportunities to focus on. Throughout the OR system pain points range from material and equipment waste, outdated preference cards and information, to the inconsistent expectations and poor team dynamics experienced by the members of the OR. 


We used these pain points to design an idea generating card game that we called “Know Pain Know Gain”. In the game, ideas are developed by drawing one “Pain” card and one “Gain” card and coming up with a concept or solution that both eases the pain and supports the gain. We held a session to play the game with different stakeholders in the healthcare industry and generated a wide variety of sketches and ideas that could alleviate pain points within the OR.  


Background Research —validated through the Pain + Gain Game— allowed us to zero-in on the main challenges affecting OR stakeholders and helped us group different opportunity spaces relating to product, service, and space:

  1. Aligned OR communications

  2. Drape Innovation

  3. Improving Civility in the OR

We love working with MDes students; you helped us reframe challenges, look at things differently and bring creative methodologies to our industry.

- Joel Coyler

Director of Marketing & Product Management, Cardinal Health 



We'll use these concepts to inform how we approach our everyday work and remind us to think about these issues differently.


- Doug Wolfe

 Sr. Product Management, Cardinal Health 



Opportunity Spaces

Columbus College of Art & Design | Master of Design 2020