How Embracing Hospitality Design Can Help Healthcare Strengthen Patient Experience

| July 30, 2018

by Brian McKenna

In healthcare, designing for positive patient experiences is imperative. The rise of consumerism, new entrants in the market like CVS and Amazon, and the emergence of new generations that value experience more than their predecessors, require health organizations to intentionally design for positive patient experiences that differentiate them from competitors.

While there are numerous strategies for fostering strong patient experiences, healthcare systems would be smart to embrace ideas from new places like hospitality. Across the design world, organizations and building owners continue to realize the value in moving from compartmentalized expertise and thinking to broad design efforts that welcome all ideas to inform their built environment.

Given that hospitality has long been focused on delivering valuable immersive experiences, the market is rich ground for healthcare to pull from. Many of the design ideas that make hotels and entertainment venues enjoyable can also resonate with patients. Here’s a look at three ways hospitality can positively influence patient experience in care environments.

Make healthcare spaces feel like home (or the spa)
Twenty years ago, it would have taken individuals mere nanoseconds to determine if they were standing in a healthcare space or a luxury spa. Today, people may need more time as health systems continue to evolve their care environments. Hallmark Health’s new Melrose-Wakefield Medical Building is a shining example as its interior takes cues from both retail and hospitality — creating a setting featuring stone, wood, bright colors, natural light, and expansive artwork that together deliver a welcoming aesthetic.

Hallmark Health builds on this patient-centric approach by deploying a medical-home model of care in the center. The building is purposely designed around a collaborative inner core that physically unites physicians, nurses, nutritionists, social workers, and others to holistically care for patients. The physical space is a catalyst for not just positive patient experiences but also more coordinated care.

Be bold with first impressions
Patients begin to shape their impression of a healthcare setting the moment they step in the door. This means entrances and lobbies should be a focal point for launching positive experiences. Health systems across the country like University of Minnesota Health are finding success moving away from the historical model — a check-in desk and waiting room — and instead creating spaces where concierges approach guests with tablets to help them check in, find an exam room, or even valet their car. In these cutting-edge spaces, checking in at a healthcare building is akin to the check-in process at luxury hotels.

Beyond rethinking the check-in experience, health organizations can also reposition lobbies and public spaces by offering group seating areas to encourage interaction, public artwork (maybe infographics that educate them about their health), coffee shops or cafés, and even outdoor seating. These simple steps can transform stark check-in spaces to more comfortable and relaxing settings.

Empower patients with technology
There is so much new technology that can help enhance patient experiences. While it’s important to rethink traditional lobby areas, another step organizations can take is harnessing text updates or GPS badges that allow patients to stroll through public areas or outdoors while they await their appointment.

For inpatient facilities, patient rooms should be outfitted with technology that allows patients to customize their experience. This doesn’t just mean large TVs but solutions like what Jacobs Medical Center near San Diego has deployed. The healthcare building equips each patient room with an iPad that allows patients to customize temperature, lighting, and other environmental factors in their room while also allowing them to contact care staff and pull up treatment schedules and medical records. This technology infusion helps patients feel in control of their spaces and further echoes the comforting experience of staying in a hotel.

With patients placing more value on experience, healthcare organizations are embracing new ideas and bold solutions to create buildings that cater to their evolving needs. As this shift continues, health leaders should continue to look toward hospitality for ideas that can strengthen their efforts.

Brian McKenna


Brian McKenna, AIA, NCARB, LEED AP, is CannonDesign’s Boston health market leader. 


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