Five years ago, I shared this Cleveland Clinic video on empathy in a blog post. It has become the most-read post on my blog. And more than 4.3 million people have viewed the video on YouTube.
If you haven't seen it, you should watch. If you have seen it, you should watch it again.
It will remind you that understanding how another person is feeling and why they are feeling that way can elevate caregiving to another level.
Actually, it can elevate all human relationships to another level.
But beyond human interaction, the design of the physical environment itself can also help make the human connection to patient care. That's why empathy is such a powerful tool to have in your design toolbox.
How Do You Design With Empathy?
The late great architect Michael Graves, who spent the last 12 years of his life in a wheelchair, felt that to design a truly great healthcare facility, you needed to have been a patient yourself.
I don't agree with that.
Many architects and designers I know have spent time in healthcare facilities as "mock patients" to understand what the experience might feel like. Some of them have posed as "mock staff members" too.
You don't have to have had a life-changing health event to design a facility that is supportive and comforting. I'm not saying it wouldn't give you a valuable perspective.
But being able to identify and understand what patients, families, and staff are feeling is really what empathetic design all about.
Everyone is Thinking About Empathy
I'm not alone in thinking about empathy.
Last month, those of you who voted on your top three concerns from a list of 25 industry challenges at The Center for Health Design's booth at the Healthcare Design conference picked "Design-Experience/Empathy."
It is a number one concern for architects/ designers and those working in healthcare organizations. Vendors/solution providers listed it as number three.
And while there might be various interpretations as to what "Design-Experience/Empathy" means to different people, for me the common denominator is empathy.
(By the way, there's still time to vote in this informal poll: What keeps you up at night?)
Let's Raise Our Empathy Bar
Finally, in the spirit of the holiday season, we can all try raising our empathy bar a little. Thank you, Cleveland Clinic, for reminding us how meaningful empathy can be in many aspects of our lives and work.
Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays, everyone!
More on Empathy
Check out these other posts from me on empathy in design:
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