how can we design to inspire self-efficacy?
I went to a talk yesterday by Josh Chuzi for Atlanta Design Week called Healing Environments: How Art & Design Can Improve Health. Although the context of the conversation came from his background in art history, he posed a very interesting question: how can we design to inspire self-efficacy?
The World Health Organization defines health as a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity”. Chuzi talked about healing as a multifaceted term as well, highlighting not only physical healing, but psychological, spiritual, social, cultural, and sexual healing as well. The common theme in healing, though, is to build (and I don’t love this term) self-efficacy.
The prevailing attitude in the healthcare environment today is to treat the physical body. According to Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, we must address the physical, corporal needs first. I think, though, sometimes in the current state of healthcare in the world today, we take that need out of proportion with the others. As a medical device designer, I see that we certainly think first and foremost (and sometimes solely) about how medically efficacious a device or therapy is. While that has to be our primary concern, it often becomes our only concern.
We lose sight of the human element of healing. The need to feel nurtured, stimulated, and protected - emotional self-efficacy. The need for our family and friends in times of medical emergency - social self-efficacy. So how do we inspire patients and clinicians to strive for that?
And even more importantly, how do we inspire patients and clinicians in the developing world to achieve that goal as well? In places where empowerment is in short supply, how do we create products and processes to drive people to total self-efficaciousness?
Clever design takes these things into account. That’s why music videos in India work wonders on rural literacy rates. That’s why Paul Farmer’s DOT program was such a success in Haiti. And why Greg Mortensen is able to effectively counter the Taliban’s madrassas in northern Pakistan and Afghanistan by building schools.
No, clever design can’t do this on its own. Empowerment and self-efficaciousness are a partnership of people, product, and process. I suspect that in the next 20 years in this country, we’re going to see a dramatic shift in how doctors see patients. As costs continue to rise, we’re going to have to. The process by which we pay for healthcare will change. And the products that we use will have to adapt to keep up. Health is about a whole person. While the medical profession is segmenting and specializing further, the processes and products that we use have to be able to synthesize those specialities into a whole person again.