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Elon PA students collaborate with the Alamance Open Door Clinic on improving care

Students in Elon's Physician Assistant Studies program and staff from the Alamance Open Door Clinic participated in a design thinking sprint on Tuesday, Dec. 5, to address two questions related to quality improvement and patient adherence.  

Elon Physician Assistant (PA) students, in the clinical phase of their education, participated in a four-hour workshop on Tuesday, Dec. 5, with staff from the Alamance Open Door Clinic to address two system-wide questions: “How might we improve triage efficiency and effectiveness?” and “How might we improve treatment plan adherence?”

Open Door staff provided valuable information regarding clinic processes.

The exploration was led by Tracey Thurnes, assistant professor in the Department of Physician Assistant Studies and Dawan Stanford, director of design thinking at Elon University. Dawan began the day with an introduction to design thinking and why it is a valuable process in the health sciences. The primary goals of design thinking experiences for students in the health sciences are to create multi-functional, high-impact medical teams that are made up of members with strong leadership abilities and to increase interprofessional educational experiences to make a sustainable impact on the local medical community.

Service maps aided students in the Design Thinking process.

Following the introduction, students explored a service map that was created through prior research and interviews with Thurnes and staff at the Open Door Clinic. The service maps detailed the processes within the clinic from a patient, volunteer, provider, and system-wide perspective. In small groups, students and Open door staff then had time to identify areas of confusion or perceived complications related to the process and their specific question.  

Elon PA students use idea generation to propose solutions to their system challenge. 

After the exploration, students provided as many ideas as possible to improve their system challenge.  They were encouraged to dream big and to have no constraints in their idea generation. Once a plethora of ideas were available, common themes were pinpointed and students used their service maps and a service ticket to express their prototypes for solutions.

The day concluded with students presenting their innovative solutions to the Open Door staff, and rich dialogue was had around each idea to improve triage and treatment adherence, ultimately hoping to improve patient outcomes. 

At the conclusion of the workshop, the students provided the Open Door staff with more than 70 ideas and possible solutions on service tickets and maps. Tracy Salisbury, executive director of the Alamance Open Door Clinic shared, “We are grateful to have the opportunity to collaborate with Elon PA students on this project. We definitely got some great ideas that we plan to explore and implement in the future.”

The Physician Assistant Studies program has a strong relationship with the Open Door Clinic, raising $17,000 this year in the 3rd Annual Great Cape Escape, and students regularly volunteer at the clinic during their academic year of the 27-month program.  


Tracey Thurnes,
12/11/2017 8:40 AM