The New Healthcare Consumer

By Barbara Huelat

Better experiences improve outcomes through human engagement. Yet, as we continually unravel human emotions behind the healing and disease, we find ill people are still capable of love, joy, value and have the potential to experience a meaningful life. With their engagement into healing environments, they can participate and enrich the quality of their lives as science and design continually find pathways to their needs and emotions.

Today healing environments is not just about a pretty place with a piano in the lobby. It is more than medical care, safe housing, meals and clean facilities. Healing environments must address humanity as major stakeholders, provisions for joy, value and meaning in life. This is far greater than just housing for the ill.

We are now at the crossroads of the next health care disruptor - the patient consumer and their families are demanding a human quality of life. Family can’t just tuck loved ones in a healthcare facility for safekeeping. They are poised for change. Patients may be sick, elderly and frail, but they are loved and cherished and are confident there is a better way. The pace of change is accelerating. People are demanding a radical new health care experience. They want human dignity to be acknowledged and taken seriously. They want knowledge and information necessary to participate in decisions affecting their loved one’s care, health and life experiences. They expect to have safe, healthy buildings for their loved ones, but they want more. This is the next generation of criteria for healing environments.

“Human-Centric” design is both a process and a place. The design process develops criteria to support the wholeness of the person, the biology of the physical being, the emotion of one’s spiritual nature and the cognitive process of the thinking person. Human-centric is an interactive systems approach to design consisting of and focusing on the unique characteristics and needs which make us human. This creative “process” creates a structure that defines the components of an innovative space. “Place” is the product of the process. It is the environment where humankind can optimally flourish.

Can design also support these human complexities, including innovation and creativity? To address these questions, let’s look at what it means to be human. This seemingly simple question has many diverse and conflicting answers. The clarity primarily resides in “human being” vs “being human.” Human beings are easily described by our biology and characteristics, genius and species. However, it often takes essays, books, psychology, theologians and opinion to define “being human.” Being human will never have a clear definition because as a philosophy, it is an ever-developing interpretation of an evolutionary species. Human-centric design requires we address both sides of our humanity. It further requires these human needs are central to our design thinking with people as a biosocial being is center to all environments.

Design for the bio-human can be achieved by carefully addressing the “human factor needs” of their human biology, including their frailty, providing ergonomics, nourishment, sensory input and elements that support the human factors for all bodily functions. It is not an easy process but is achievable with the current understanding of physiology.

Addressing “being human” or psychosocial needs requires we embrace human behaviors, emotional spirit, the decline in physical health or mental cognition and social/cultural dementia dynamics. Being human is the face of humanity’s self-expression. The challenge to design healthcare environments that can achieve such a goal is great and one worth pursuing. Today, the human experience for patients is crying out for change. A new philosophy of “Human-Centric” design can make a difference and leave healing environments in a better place for humanity.

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