Your Pill on a Silver Platter? Incorporating Resort Features into Hospitals

It’s common to think of “luxury” in terms of townhouses, or hotels, or resorts, but imagine a “luxury hospital” where a patient in a spacious suite calls room service for a late night snack. That scene represents a growing trend as large healthcare organizations hope to attract more patients by building hospitals that resemble high-end hotels. In fact, one of Michigan’s newer hospitals even recruited its administrator from one of the nation’s premier hotel chains.

How did we get from institutional-looking hospitals to this extreme? We discovered that our mental state affects our health and healing and our environment affects our mental state. It follows that if you are in the business of healing and want to improve patient outcomes, then you ought to create as patient-friendly an environment as possible. An equally compelling reason for building a high-end hospital is that it differentiates you in a crowded, competitive healthcare market. An upscale hospital makes a statement that can’t be ignored.

If you’ve been in a hospital that was built or remodeled in the last five years, you’ve probably seen the evidence: expansive, attractive lobbies decorated with plants and artwork, pleasant lighting, private patient rooms and a more home-like environment. For example, the recent SSOE-designed surgery center at Mt. Clemens Regional Medical Center includes an attractive, spacious two-story atrium and an outdoor healing garden.

Resort-like hospitals go beyond “pleasant and welcoming.” They combine comfort, services and aesthetics in order to be “impressive.” The architectural features in these facilities suggest high design: curved walls, the use of stone and glass and entries with soaring ceilings. To further diminish the clinical look, natural light is abundant even in patient rooms and laboratories. Patient rooms are predominantly large private spaces furnished with a sofa bed that family members can sleep on when staying overnight. Many have a flat screen TV and internet access. Some also include food preparation and family dining areas.

The overall layout and traffic patterns of the facility are also unique. Staff and materials are segregated to one part of the hospital and visitors and patients to another, with the service area in the center. And visitors don’t ride the elevator with hampers full of dirty linens because there are separate corridors and elevators for the two groups.

Most of these changes cannot be achieved by an addition or rennovation. They are just too extensive to justify or they involve structural features. However, many basic quality-of-care issues can be improved by additions or renovations to the more traditional hospital. Private rooms, because they reduce the spread of disease, are one example. Improving air quality can help reduce infection. Strategic positioning of nurses stations can enhance staff responsiveness.

SSOE understands how resort-like hospitals can create a competitive advantage. It also realizes these are atypical primarily because most health care organizations either cannot afford them or do not want to invest their resources this way. A large segment of medical centers are opting for more practical, less costly design approaches. SSOE’s knowledgeable, creative approach to healthcare design balances economic realities with the business goals of attracting more patients and delivering the highest standard of care. It works with clients to develop facilities in which all these priorities are satisfied.