when researcher becomes patient

Healthcare spaces can be exceptionally challenging to understand from the user’s perspective, with their emotionally nuanced and personal experience entirely outside of most people’s day to day lives. I came across two personal blog posts from designers and researchers who went from theorists, to patients.

Photo: Salma Patel

Salma Patel is a British doctoral researcher interested in digital engagement and participation in healthcare. The above photograph was taken by her on an unexpected visit last summer to Addenbrooke’s A&E department in Cambridge. In this blog post titled “Experiencing the link between environment design & patient experience” she chronicles her interactions with the built environment. She begins the narrative:

As we approached the hospital it wasn’t clear where we supposed to park. There was a sign directing people towards the main car park but there was no sign for A&E parking point or drop off. We continued through the emergency route as it was late at night. As we came in front of the A&E department we realised that the parking bays were disabled only – and though they were all empty, my husband being the ethical man he is, decided not to park there. Ahead of me, I could see some parking spots, but again as there were no signs we were unaware if we were allowed to park there. My husband decided we should just go to the main car park. He had no idea which way to turn.

Luckily, it was a quick stay and Salma is fine. I find it worthwhile to click through and read this visual narrative of the a&e experience from a patient who has an eye turned very specifically to the design of the facility.

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Crystal Richards, is a member of the healthcare team of the Pertkins+Will Seattle office with five years of healthcare experience. She is also a Lukemia survivor. Richards and Perkins + Will colleagues Missy Kutner and Susan Lee wrote an affecting post for the Contract Magazine blog. Richards begins:

I had just finished creating a walk-through animation of a new ambulatory surgery center the day before I got the call. Sure, I understood how to lay out a healthcare facility, how circulation through a hospital worked, where the “family zones” needed to be drawn on the plan, but I was about to get an unsolicited insider’s perspective that would change my life.

She then provides powerful insights surrounding her own emotional experience as a patient. Kutner and Lee relate these personal experiences to existing design elements sometimes put in place to ease the stay of long-term patients, including windows and skylights, bringing the outdoors in and extending patient areas into common spaces, providing social spaces and exercise equipment, creating “family zones” in patient rooms and and workspaces for caregivers in common spaces. The post provides a uniquely personal piece in an field that tends to be analytic and evidence based.

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