The Poetry of Health Technology

If you search for Marco van Beers at a conference, you usually don’t search for long. This young designer sticks out between all healthcare entrepreneurs and investors – not only because he is pretty tall. While other young entrepreneurs are looking for money, Marco is primarily looking for discussions. He wants us to talk about how we communicate with patients. Less facts and figures and more emotion and intimacy, that’s his vision for healthcare.

Marco believes that design can help there. He created tokens that enable communication among patients, relatives and friends without talking. Severely ill patients get such a token, as well as his or her special friends do. Everytime they think of each other they can rub it. Then both the patient’s and the friend’s token start glowing, showing that they care.

I had the chance to talk to Marco at the “Innovations & Investment in Healthcare Summit” in Berlin. Here’s an excerpt of our talk:

Most people on this conference have a medical or economic background. What does a designer has to do in here?

Marco van Beers: Designers have a magical skill to reframe and see opportunities. They think differently and are not bound to the sturdy healthcare world. Often doctors preform a routine – a protocol which is just totally the opposite of innovation.
 I believe that designers also have the ability to engage with people, and to find their deepest needs. We can read between the lines. And because of that we can show those sturdy people in the ivory tower how healthcare could be different.

But innovation isn’t just important to healthcare. Other industries urgently need innovation as well  – and probably are more open to it.

Van Beers: The new generation of designers says: ‘Listen to your users, they know what they want!’. And then they design new toasters, coffee machines and phones. To be honest, I used to be one of them. But does it matters to life at all? Well, just little. I didn’t want to waste my time on those things. I want to do something that matters.

Why does your idea matter then?

Van Beers: It could add a new dimension in current ways of communicating. Usually, we loose one fourth of our social environment when we are diagnosed with a severe illness. This token might help to sustain at least some of these relations in lowering hurdles of communication. If somebody doesn’t find the right words, he can still use this to express that he cares.

Communication in healthcare certainly remains a problem. In your opinion: What else do we have to do if we really want to change it to the better?

We should talk about intimacy and emotions instead of investments and efficiency. Healthcare is about humans! And all people involved in the healthcare industry must take a look from the patients’ viewpoint. Another largely underestimated thing is the reputation of healthcare technology. It is often experienced as something cold and distant, but this is often not the case. Technology could be something emotional, warm and intimate. It is very poetic, if you just allow it to.

Marco van Beers is an Industrial Designer from Eindhoven, Netherlands. He investigates how technology could help to share thoughts and emotions during tough health conditions.

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1 Comment

  1. Shari Langemak Shari Langemak sagt:

    Wow, many thanks – it means a lot to me! I regrettably don’t spend enough time on my blog, but your comment actually encouraged me to write articles here more regularly.

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