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Reimagining Mental Healthcare:
Information Technology, Design Thinking, and Implementation Science

“Reimagining Mental Healthcare” challenges us to put aside what we know about mental healthcare and to start from scratch – to reimagine mental healthcare.

This special initiative of the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences seeks to dream into the future of mental healthcare.  Participants bring to bear on this task theories, tools, and expertise from fields outside mental healthcare – in particular, from information technology, design thinking, and implementation science.

By information technology, we mean the broad spectrum of possible applications including but not limited to telemental health, electronic medical records and measurement-based care, big data and machine learning1, m-health applications and biometrics, virtual extenders, technological adjuncts to treatment, virtual reality, web-based interventions, and more.  We are setting out to discover and create information technologies targeted at improving human mental health.

Design thinking is inspired by Stanford’s Hasso Plattner Institute of Design, or “d.school,2” and our reimagining will be catalyzed by many of the d.school tenets, like need-focused approach, user-centered design, and techniques to harness a creative mindset, including brainstorming, and rapid prototyping.  By infusing design thinking throughout, we may truly understand the mental health needs of our patients and the myriad array of providers and craft solutions required to meet those needs.

Implementation science is the study of the dissemination and actualization of research findings for the benefit of patients, in the real world.  This science will be core to introducing and integrating discoveries into clinical practices and the care of populations, here and globally.

In essence, the Reimagining Mental Healthcare Group is an incubator and accelerator of ideas and projects. We incubate ideas, iterate and refine their solutions, and accelerate their translation (T1 through T4)3 into improved mental healthcare. Participants bring different expertise to collaborations, and meetings with members of other Stanford Schools (e.g., Stanford School of Engineering) and Silicon Valley industries are additional resources for consultation and joint ventures. Examples of projects might be:

  • How to use tablets for measurement based care that is user-friendly and HIPAA compliant in an outpatient setting.
  • How to create a curriculum to teach design thinking and implementation science to mental health leadership, psychiatrists, clinical psychologists, medical students, and residents.
  • How to plan and build a new outpatient service including floor plans for optimal patient flow, team care, stepped care, and telemental health.
  • How to establish a laboratory to assess the quality and establish model ethical safeguards for new mental health initiatives such as apps for smartphones.

How to get involved

For more information please contact Alan K. Louie, M.D. at louiemd@stanford.edu

Professor (Teaching) of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences (Administrative and Academic Special Programs)


  1. Darcy AM, Louie AK, Roberts LW. Machine Learning and the Profession of Medicine. JAMA(2016) 315(6):551-55
  2. Hasso Plattner Institute of Design at Stanford http://dschool.stanford.edu/
  3. Kon AA. The Clinical and Translational Science Award (CTSA) Consortium and the Translational Research Model. Am J Bioeth. 2008 Mar; 8(3): 58–W3. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2826322/