What is the relationship between diabetes, design, and empathy?

Recently I was having a coffee with an organization who wanted to pick my brain about their business strategy and design in order to better serve people with diabetes.


Accessibility in Diabetes Health Care

Of course, I highlighted the need for accessibility. That is a worldwide issue.

We know that access to insulin is an issue for many people around the world. Insulin is one big piece to the access equation, but there is so much more to be done.

There is also access to, or ease of access to, medical supplies, as well as access to education and information.


Empathy in Diabetes Health Care

The second need I highlighted was the need to be empathetic to people with diabetes and those who care for them.

More often than not, healthcare companies are not empathetic to the people they are serving, or they forget how to do that.

I think that sometimes with the pressures that companies have to focus on sales and survive, it is very easy to lose sight of these things.

There are many levels to empathy. As a starting point, companies must see the world through the eyes of the people they are serving.  

This demands that we put aside our own stuff, observe and listen deeply.

Despite all the efforts taken, it feels like some companies lose their empathy when they become so focussed on the transactional part of their business rather than the service piece.


Diabetes Healthcare Organizations: Remember Your WHY

I feel like I’ve been calling it out a lot lately, and I also advise individuals to do the same. Do not lose sight of the why, or the reason why we are in business.

And that is to serve people with diabetes.

Whether we are designing business processes, new products or new services, we are here to support people with diabetes first – the money and success will come later. Serve first.

Diabetes, Design and Empathy: The Natural Meeting Place of a Successful Diabetes Healthcare Company

Ironically, after I left that meeting, I got in my car to drive to pick up some diabetes supplies for my son.

Brene Brown’s latest Dare to Lead podcast had just dropped, so of course I was eager to finish listening to that discussion. Her podcasts always teach me something, leave me inspired and wanting to be a better human.

And I could not believe my ears as I listened to the episode where she interviews Debbie Millman about “Why Design Matters”.

They were talking about design, art and life for the most part. They were not talking about design in a healthcare context, but the message certainly applies – deeply.

And then I got to the part where Brene Brown said that she believes “design is a function of empathy.” 

Debbie Millman confirmed that this is true. She goes on to beautifully explain why. I wanted to pull my car over and shout it from the rooftops.

This is so true and honest, it almost hurts.


A Request to All Healthcare Providers: Please Remember Who You Serve

Dear healthcare providers, companies and organizations, and my fellow healthcare managers – and anyone, really.

When you are out there designing something new, whatever that may be; please, please, do not leave your empathy at the door. 

Empathy is the most critical part of your work.

I highly recommend listening to the Why Design Matters episode – and maybe that part on empathy twice.


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