'The Wall'

Have you seen ‘the wall?’ 

We see the wall frequently.

It’s a common moment on our visits to clinics and hospitals and other sites of care. On our research visits, Helpfully often begins our field work with a tour around healthcare facilities and we observe key moments in how patients and professionals navigate the spaces and get things done. What happens when? Where does a person go next? What’s ‘on stage’ and ‘behind the scenes’? Sometimes, we already know some of the pain points or a breakpoint in the patient journey. In other cases we get more latitude to explore and discover breakpoints.

So let us show you a typical ‘wall’. It’s from a recent walkthrough at a birthing center.

“The Wall” at The  Atlanta Birth Center , Atlanta’s only midwife-staffed birthing facility.

“The Wall” at The Atlanta Birth Center, Atlanta’s only midwife-staffed birthing facility.

The wall is the collection and display case for all kinds of collateral to help patients beyond the visit. They’re often a happy mess — support options, Follow-on healthcare or wellness opportunities, disease management tools, holistic health practitioners, startups trying trying disrupt some part of health or healthcare, foundations providing assistance, patient advocacy orgs, government programs, public health posters.

For an increasing set of health conditions, patients want to be in control of their own care. The attitude of empowerment is growing in prevalence in the U.S. and beyond [see more]. Patients want to direct their medical or wellness path, and collaborate with their doctors or others who can help them. Dare we say they even want to design their own care. They are seeking out help and resources, online and off. They’re asking friends and family, and others who’ve gone through a similar set of options.

As a researcher, the wall is a great conversation starter. We ask patients and the professionals who work in the facility to walk us through some of the options. To explain why those materials are there, how they refresh / add / remove items, and who’s responsible. The wall can serve proxy measure for patient interest and even tell us something about staff engagement as well. When we see a healthy, even overflowing, wall we know the professionals who work there are highly engaged in supporting patients. When we’ve seen sparse or neglected walls, there’s often a lack of support. 

The next time you’re in a medical facility or just visiting your local doctor or dentist’s office, look for the wall. You might learn something, find a flyer or card of interest, and walk away with more knowledge about health and healthcare too.