How Space Can Improve The Healthcare Experience

Going into TEDMED, our goal for the Steelcase Health space in the Hive was to facilitate experiences and conversations during the Smartphone Physicals that amplified the personal connection between clinicians, patients, and the technology they were using. Based on the feedback we’ve received, from media sources like NPR, ABC, USA Today, BusinessWeek, and the Huffington Post, it’s clear we succeeded. TEDMED went so far as to dub our set up as the “Exam Room of the Future”. They wrote:

Three major pieces of furniture, the patient chair, pocket desk and a physician stool – all on the same level as the patient chair to facilitate communication – are on rollers so they can be easily reshuffled. The entire space is ideally as uncluttered as possible, for a calming effect.

Margaret Alrutz, Director of Strategic Marketing & Experience Design at Steelcase Health, says the room takes cues from cultural changes at large. “Healthcare changes as people’s experience of the world starts to change, and one area that’s driving things now is retail. For example, a consumer may think, ‘I can get movies and meals at home anytime I want, but I get to have a physical maybe once a year. It takes a long time and it’s uncomfortable,” she says.

With the glut of on-demand consumer technology, though, including health apps like those in the Smartphone Physical, the new expectation is, “I can participate in healthcare and not be told what to do,” Alrutz says. However, she added, “We may not yet have the social clues to navigate this scenario. So can we take these cues that are already familiar, like sitting in an easy chair, as ways to signal how to interact? “When a patient walks into a room and sees an easy chair and a TV screen, they may think, ‘I know how to do this,’ ” Alrutz says.

We also received feedback on the effect our space has on the clinician – patient connection from Leanne West, the director of the Landmarc Research Institute at Georgia Tech. Leanne said:

I felt more relaxed being at eye-level with the physician thanks to the Empath recliner, rather than perched up on the awkward exam table. It was more conducive to having an actual conversation.

I could easily see images on the smartphone as the tests were being conducted. The physician also didn’t have to constantly be turning his back to me to type notes into the computer, he could do it all there on his phone. The design of the space made this all possible.

Roz Cama, after experiencing a Smartphone Physical in the Steelcase Health space, delivered an insight into the future of the health exam that bears repeating:

The physical was chair-centric, not exam table centric, like you’ve seen in the past.  You almost don’t feel like a patient, you’re just having an intelligent conversation with a colleague about something very important – your health. This brand of personalized, customizable medicine, liberated by this kind of technology, is very exciting.

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