To Listen and to Hear

When Socrates wrote that “the only true wisdom is in knowing you know nothing” it’s unlikely he was directing this at medical doctors specifically. Nevertheless, it may be that they would do well to heed his advice—or at least to pause and consider their own assumptions, particularly when it comes to decorum in conversation with patients.

On average in the United States, physicians wait an average of eighteen seconds—eighteen seconds!—before interrupting a patients’ description of their symptoms—a startling figure and one which does much to explain the trepidation with which many approach the doctor’s office and the sense of intimidation they feel upon arriving. 

As Nirmal Joshi, chief medical officer for Pinnacle Health System, recently outlined, it’s a real problem facing a healthcare system which many perceive to be bloated and impersonal. That conversations with the doctors themselves can feel rote is especially frustrating, given the difficulty of making appointments, booking specialists, and so on.

We don’t mean to berate doctors, however. There’s no doubt that they face unique challenges and that attempts to streamline the process may often be perceived as callous when some are truly done in order to maximize the number of people one can treat in a given day.

And yet ultimately the effect is the same: people do not feel heard. It’s what we were told over and over again as we began the process of understanding the medical device landscape, and it is precisely that alienation which we’re seeking to alleviate through thoughtful, intentional design.

A beautiful product—one which anticipates the needs of the user the moment before they’re even aware they have a need—that is our aim. If we expect doctors to listen, why shouldn’t we hold product designers to the same standard?

Hal Ebbott