When I started at Healthcare Design seven years ago—a journalist by trade, as opposed to a designer—my experiences as a healthcare patient or family member helped me to understand the context of what you all do and the decisions you make. I knew on a very personal level what my sources were describing, because I’d experienced it in one way or another.
In the past year, I’ve consumed more healthcare than I ever had before, thanks to the birth of my first child, Sam. After countless prenatal visits and trips to the pediatrician, two days in a labor and delivery unit, plus one 5 a.m. dash to the ED for croup, my first-hand experiences have grown exponentially.
I shared a laugh with one of our jurors during the recent Healthcare Design Showcase judging in Chicago, when the group was assessing an image of a labor and delivery room that featured a queen-size bed, deep tub, comfortable family accommodations, and loads of natural light. “This room would make me consider having another baby,” she said. I could relate; my husband still gripes about his back hurting from the sleeper chair in our room. This space we were seeing was one that made you think: “They listened.”
Our editors hear a lot about community interviews, focus groups, patient and staff surveys, etc.—it’s become so commonplace that I almost take it for granted. Just look at “Natural Beauty: Cherokee Indian Hospital”, an in-depth profile of Cherokee Indian Hospital in Cherokee, S.C., where the patient population wasn’t engaged just at the start of the project but through to completion, with the project team offered financial incentives based on how engaged the community was in the project, down to how many people attended the ribbon-cutting ceremony.
So I was a bit surprised the other day when a panelist at a private roundtable I moderated prior to our HCD CitySCENE event in Dallas said that his firm is scaling back on user involvement, noting that there’s no evidence that suggests projects with deep user input perform any better than those based more wholly on professional expertise and best practices. I’m curious if others out there are trending in this direction. Did the industry finally come to a place where perhaps there were just too many voices at the table? What’s the best balance to strike?
I’d love to hear your thoughts, because I have a hunch there are a lot of patients and staff out there who were glad you heard theirs.