Applying proxemics to the healthcare experience

Margaret Alrutz is the director of strategic marketing and experience design at Nurture by Steelcase — a company that provides furniture for medical settings.  In her talk at the Mayo Center for Innovation Transform 2012 symposium, she spoke about how the technology and practices of healthcare have changed, but the spaces have not been improved.  Citing the work of anthropologist Edward T. Hall, Alrutz described the research put into product design at Nurture, which included observing medical personnel as they actually performed their duties, often awkwardly as in the photo below:

Image from Margaret Alrutz’s presentation

The core content of her talk begins at about the 3:30 mark in the video:

While Nurture’s upscale furniture addresses first world healthcare inconvenience and unpleasantness, these research concepts can be applied elsewhere and one could argue that improving staff ergonomics and comfort for visitors would lead to better patient outcomes in many situations.  I can think of several personal medical experiences where details of my surroundings made a significant impact on the level of anxiety I felt.

The Nurture website has a number of case studies which outline problems they’ve tackled and the methodology that they used to find solutions, including observation, surveys, and interviews.  That sounds awfully anthropological, doesn’t it?