Design for the Cancer Journey

The cancer treatment journey embraces the patient and their loved ones across the cancer experience from diagnosis through survivorship. This journey is complex, diverse, and intensely human. Individuals must cope with numerous physical and emotional challenges, balancing clinical tasks alongside emotional unknowns. The human-centered design focuses on understanding the breadth of factors that contribute to a patient’s cancer experiences.

Healing design is critically important for the cancer patient, as design aligns with human emotion and the visceral response to the experience. The design engages the human senses to activate the experience. It is the experiences that impact outcomes. For example, access to natural light engages the sense of sight that can create the positive experience of views of nature and sunlight. This experience is visceral and emotional, reducing stress and contributes to positive emotions.

The design further provides the environment with design interventions to support a positive experience within a healing environment. Design interventions, much like other medical, surgical and pharmacological interventions, are actions to change outcomes. For example, sounds can contribute to both negative and positive experiences. The sound of someone in pain or retching from medication is contagious to those around them. Acoustical interventions or music therapy can be a positive distraction that can mitigate the pain.

Patient-centered models focus on human needs, emotions, and human care at the core. The model is linked to evidence-based design and is rooted in neuroscience, environmental psychology, and psychoneuroimmunology. These are the core principles in ways the human responds to stress.

Barbara Huelat is certified in the Planetree Visionary Design Network in 2009, exercises human-centric design thinking in all her projects, from very modest remodels to large new medical campus. The principles are the same – human focus. This design thinking benefits decision making, efficient planning, budget management, and the people that will occupy and interface with the Oncology environment.

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