INTERVIEWER: You started off just this great thing of like who enjoyed architectural redesign? It's like, did we get any hands at all?
JAMIE HUFFCUT: No hands. Nobody has enjoyed that process in the room.
INTERVIEWER: So what's the deal here? I mean, can we make it better?
JAMIE HUFFCUT: Oh, absolutely.
INTERVIEWER: Do we have to do it?
JAMIE HUFFCUT: Absolutely. We can always make it better. I think that the process is methodical for a reason because it's found to have worked for a wide range of industries, a wide range of client types, a wide range of building type. But again, because everyone is different, everything is different, every client is unique, every culture is unique, there have to be ways to interpret the process, to improve it based on the needs of the client. And I think the overall process is good.
What we need to do is front load that process with this idea of more immersive research, observation, understanding of who our clients are and what they need before we come in and say, oh, I've done 50 clinics, so I'll just do yours for you. It'll be fine. It's worked elsewhere.
Or I've done a dozen hospitals, this will work for you. Architects can't come in saying that and designers, we can't say that initially. We need to understand who you are, how you work, and what your aspirations are before we can start designing something. Or else we're designing something that's only going to last a short period of time when we want to design spaces that promote health and wellness in any kind of scenario you're talking about that will last decades, if we can. That should be the goal.
I think our tools are an understanding of where the industry is going, how it's changing, how the retail health, the urgent care, the minute clinics are a disruptor in that industry because people aren't getting what they needed. And how we care is changing that. Technology is changing so, so, so rapidly.
We, for a long time, were centered around that technology. The newest and greatest laser surgery piece, all of the terminology and the ways that we're treating these really complicated diseases that before we didn't have a way to treat and cure. That was center stage.
We swing back to the patient, patient-centered care, but we also need to take a more holistic view. It's not just a one item care solution, it's not just the patient, it's not just the technology, it's not just the provider, it's all of that coming together. And so we need to design thinking of all of that.
So we, as the architects, need to come in with a toolkit of understanding the parts and the pieces, the newest technology, the industry changes, as well as best practice of what's been done so that we can say, oh, we solved it this way here, would that work for you? And ask the question. Sometimes the regulations are against us. And it's a little bit more fight than you want. But sometimes it's worth it.
The paperwork in the hospital, clinical, any kind of health care environment is so important. We have HIPAA regulations, which dictate how we can throw the paper away, how it can be stored, what we can talk about. And that's really critical because health is so personal, which we covered, it's individualized, it's personal. But it fights us a little bit in the digital age and that signing in your name at the clipboard when you arrive at the doctor's office is archaic, but I think it's that creating a technology that's not something that's cumbersome that you have to work around that works with you is, again, part of what I think that this institute can bring to health care because hospitality has conquered it. To some extent, right?
There are some really good examples of the way they're using technology to ease in the check-in process that I think we can learn a lot from in the health care environment. There was a hospital of the future piece that was created, it might have been a decade ago, West Coast Hospital. And there was a program called My Life, which was your thre3-dimensional avatar and you could have this other life and float through. And they built the hospital in this program and it was, I guess, a fad kind of piece.
I don't think it exists anymore, though, I'm not sure. And when you went to visit this hospital in My Life, a robot came to greet you. And like something deep inside me said, no, no, no. I need a personal touch.
And I think, again, hospitality sector has really done a nice job of balancing the tech, high touch, high tech piece that health care can get to with the help of industries that have already learned it really well. There's pieces of every industry that are changing more drastically, the library. How many of us read hardbound books anymore? And what's the right balance of hardbound books?
We went from carving in stone to writing on paper to the printing press. There's just going to be a continual evolution of those processes. So where we place our elders when they age and need more assistance in doing the menial tasks of day to day, it's just going to change dramatically. And the experience, I think, the conscious consumer, which is what the health care patient is now.
And they can choose. And they have more control. And they need transparency in selecting their health care, it's going to force that change. If my experience with you isn't great, I mean, I've fired three doctors in the last year because I personally decided experience wasn't good enough. I have more options.
And I'm willing to pay a bit more to get someone who takes the time to sit down and listen to me. So I think, yes, if you're not focused on the patient experience and the staff experience, I don't want to overlook the fact that the staff are really critical. They're the hand touch of your brand. The physical touch of your brand. And their experience has to be very positive and valuable as well than I think, right, your days are numbered.
I think we're still learning. I think it's something that we have to take on the role of and bring to you the client. You've got enough on your plate with trying to run an organization, while trying to redesign for it, and look 20, 30 years out. We have to come to the table and say, here are the ways that we can really learn who you are.
Is it focus groups of your top leadership? Is it shadowing different levels, both horizontally and vertically in the organization? We don't just want to talk to the C-suite. But we need the nurses. We need the techs. We need anyone that you consult and bring on to understand the ins and outs of the organization.
So do we do it through focus groups, surveys, observation, or shadowing, and just being in the space? We don't do enough of it. We're always kind of up against time and money in our industry, like most industries are. How much can we get done for the right fee to maintain the quality? But I think if we don't start front loading more of that research and understanding who you are, you're not going to be happy with the end result. So it's worth it as far as an investment.
Empathy is so crucial. Yeah. I think there is probably a relationship between creativity and empathy. And I think our society's definition of creativity is too limited.
People say, oh, I'm not creative. I do business. I do numbers.
If you're solving any kind of problem throughout any point of your day that maybe you haven't seen before, that's creativity. And understanding someone else's problem requires empathy to really wrap your head around and say, am I solving this in the best way possible? And I think it's critical not only for health care provider, hospitality, service provider, anyone who's in the service industry to have the empathy to solve those problems. It's even more critical when you have the role of taking something that doesn't exist and trying to sculpt it and shape it and form it.
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The Cornell Institute for Healthy Futures conducted an in-depth interview with Jamie Huffcut, Health & Wellness Practice Leader at Gensler, after she participated in the panel, "The Transdisciplinary Future of Design—Opportunities for Health and Wellness Industries," on Nov. 2, 2016