Origami Innovations, a non-profit health care innovation hub, founded by Indian American Kirthi Bellamkonda and Matt Erlendson, both students at Yale University’s School of Medicine, seeks to empower “students and community members to imagine, design, and co-create tangible, disruptive, and purpose-driven solutions to pressing issues,” according to its website. Like the art form itself, Origami Innovations transforms ideas at reiterates to improve upon them.
In 2016, Yale School of Medicine (YSM) students Matt Erlendson and Kirthi Bellamkonda began collaborating on a concept that became Origami Innovations in 2018. Origami seeks to empower “students and community members to imagine, design, and co-create tangible, disruptive, and purpose-driven solutions to pressing issues,” according to its website.
Part of what led Erlendson and Bellamkonda to create Origami was the belief—based partially on Erlendson’s experience in leadership roles with Stanford Medicine X, a Stanford University healthcare innovation hub—that entrepreneurial ecosystems thrive when top-down university resources work in tandem with ground-up peer-to-peer organizations.
Erlendson and Bellamkonda believe that when faced with a question or challenge, there are many ways to address it. Bellamkonda explains that “Origami draws inspiration from initiatives at Stanford, Harvard, Johns Hopkins, and other peer institutions using human-centered design-thinking, and looks to shape those concepts and grow them to best fit the needs of New Haven, especially in uniting problem-solving efforts by patients, family members, caregivers, and interdisciplinary teams.”
Also central to Origami is the idea of “yes, and even better if.” This approach, as the Origami website explains, allows all involved to “take an idea to extremes, explore opposites, question assumptions, and encourage rapid fire acquisition of data from diverse perspectives. Potential problems are opportunities for brainstorming not for shutting down–by the end of an ideation session, solutions often present themselves.”
Erlendson and Bellamkonda think design-thinking adds an important, distinctive, approach to health care. “Investment in staff and provider engagement through problem-solving and internal innovation in health systems is associated with reductions in burnout,” according to Bellamkonda.
Origami’s Patient-Partnership-Program (led by YSM student Lina Vadlamani) is based on the premise that design-thinking can have a significant positive impact in this “external” space. The 10-week course pairs interdisciplinary students and health care providers with patients and family members to co-create solutions for better management of chronic disease.
According to Erlendson, “this program aims to elevate the patient voice and support an equal partnership between patients and providers in health innovation.” Erlendson hopes that this program “can help individual patients and also provide insights into scalable solutions that may benefit the broader community.”
In December 2017, Origami organized a team, sponsored by HealthVentures, a start-up founded by two Yale School of Management (SOM) alumni, that used the Origami design-thinking approach in a US Department of Health and Human Services Code-a-thon focused on finding data-driven solutions to address the opioid crisis. The Origami-organized team was one of three winning teams, out of more than 50 entrants.
The day before the Code-a-thon, Erlendson, Bellamkonda, Vadlamani, Lan Duan (a Yale School of Public Health student), and Valentine Quadrat (a Yale SOM student), participated in a Stanford Medicine X interdisciplinary design workshop on the opioid epidemic. This session enabled them to gain valuable insights from stakeholders in attendance, such as family members, first responders, health care providers, and individuals in recovery.
“There are wonderful top-down resources available to students at Yale that are doing incredible work, such as TSAI City, the Center for Biomedical Innovation and Technology (CBIT), the Center for Engineering Innovation & Design (CEID), and Innovate Health Yale. Origami hopes to contribute to the existing innovation pipeline and engage the broader New Haven community,” Erlendson is quoted saying in a press release.
“Origami draws inspiration from initiatives at Stanford, Harvard, Johns Hopkins, and other peer institutions using human-centered design-thinking, and looks to shape those concepts and grow them to best fit the needs of New Haven, especially in uniting problem-solving efforts by patients, family members, caregivers, and interdisciplinary teams.” Bellamkonda added. Both students are thinking about the future of healthcare and how they can change certain things about it.