Empathy Mapping: Design Thinking in Patient Experience Studies

What is an Empathy Map?


Download The Empathy Map

Empathy mapping originated in design thinking as a way to gain deeper understanding of target personas, enabling the user to deliver a better client experience. It was originally created by Dave Gray and has been gaining popularity with many communication professionals. Put simply, the tool encourages us to think about client/customer needs effectively, identifying pain points and opportunities in a systematic and straightforward way.

An agile and qualitative approach to problem solving, empathy maps can be incredibly useful in patient-caregiver experience studies.

Try it yourself, download the free empathy map template.


How do I use it?


  1. Customer Segments
    Before you start, you will need to identify who you are mapping. If you are mapping one client, make sure they accurately reflect your broader target audience..
  2. Set your goal
    Set a goal by defining what you behavioural change you want to see in your subject. Ideally, your goal will be outlined as a new observable behaviour..
  3. Observable Behaviour
    Once you have clarified the goal, work through Seeing, Saying, Doing, and Hearing. The reason for this is that the process of focusing on observable phenomena helps us to understand their perspective..
  4. Think and Feel
    Only after you have explored the observable behaviours (step 3.) do you focus on what’s going on inside their head, the ‘think and feel’. This is one of the most important aspects of the map’s design. Try to imagine what moves them, what might keep them up at night. Describe their dreams and aspirations..
  5.  Identify needs and insights.
    When the map is full, try to identify needs. Create a list outside the map. Needs are activities and desires with which your client could use help, so it is better to use verbs to describe them. Needs may arise directly from what you noticed or from contradictions between the sections in your empathy map. If you notice a strange behaviour, something that stands out, ask “why”. You may come to a remarkable realisation.

A major benefit of empathy maps are their convenience. They’re designed to be a quick exercise rather than exhaustively thorough. Once you start prototyping and testing ideas gained from empathy mapping, you’ll gather more insights.

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