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Towards a New Healthcare Architecture – Part 3 of 3

Posted by Noah Tolson on Aug 08, 2012

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In my first post, I focused on actions that healthcare organizations can take. In my second post, my focus expanded to include other stakeholders in the healthcare debate.In this post regarding healthcare design following the ACA ruling, I end by envisioning how “the hospital of the future,” might be staffed and operated:

Extending The Brand:

One of the often overlooked strategies to achieving a successful transition of care has nothing to do with design or bricks and mortar or a re-alignment of clinical practice. As healthcare is thrown deeper into the world of commoditization, a health system’s brand becomes much more important. Here, brand is not just a hospital’s logo and sign on the front door – it is not the graphic that is recognized from afar so you know the building is owned (or leased) by a particular hospital. A hospital’s brand must pervade every portion of the experience – it is a feeling one has about the institution that is based on both physical, easy to identify characteristics and intangible qualities.

If a healthcare professional can be viewed as a trusted advisor – become a well-educated friend that can be turned to at any time, is aware of the multiple factors in a person’s life that contribute to their well-being – a patient will turn to that individual on a regular basis. In turn, hospitals or healthcare facilities will become viewed as a place where people want to go because it is a place where they feel comfortable, because their trusted health advisor is there and because it exists to provide a convenient place to provide an integrated, fully-outfitted center for staying healthy --- well, then – that is a place with a successful brand.

These “hospitals of the future” must perform well in three specific areas:

  1. Information Exchange: In this era, information is always at our fingertips. Our culture is growing more comfortable with technology and its application in supporting our lives. The new “health-spaces” have the opportunity to drive education, convenience, efficiency, privacy and patient satisfaction through technology. The technology allows patients to have access to information while affording caregivers more “touch-time” with the patients.
  2. Culture of Collaboration: The environment will need to support a practice that is “elbow-to-elbow,” collaborative care vs. across the table “principal to student,” care (a place where you go when you’re in trouble). As the public becomes more informed and is supported by an integrated system of information exchange, they will be able to play a larger role in their own well-being.
  3. Effective Integration: As healthcare designers, Array views the healthcare building as a “toolbox for care.” We all know that the right tool makes the job easier and your investment of time more efficient. Let’s apply this to the healthcare environment: every building must take into consideration the specific types of patients they are to support. If the building is a full-service hospital, then the full complement of services should already be available (and talk to each other). But, if the building is a smaller, outpatient, off-campus “toolbox,” then the tools within it need to focus on a particular patient type. In the past, we saw this philosophy result in “centers of excellence” such as Women’s Centers, Cancer Centers and Heart Centers. But, to improve upon that concept – what if the building was designed to be flexible enough to account for any number of needs, was not attributable to a particular discipline, was therefore utilized 100% of the time and could support ALL the patients needs across the full continuum of care.

The brand is no longer “Hospital X – for Women,” – it is the place where the patient goes for an ultrasound one day, brings her other child for an X-ray after she falls off her bike the next and the place where her husband is educated on heart health and has a quick chest X-ray while on his lunch break. It is the place the family goes to stay healthy. Leveraging a hospital’s ability to drive the business of healthcare will facilitate maximum flexibility and integration.

As these factors are considered in the planning of these new “health spaces,” a hospital’s brand is enhanced through word of mouth – and publicly attainable information regarding the patients’ perception of care

Patients, as educated, powerful consumers will absolutely determine a hospital’s long-term success. If hospitals can reorganize around efficiency and effectiveness and incorporate evolving technology, they will be able to create a culture of care that exceeds expectations, extends their brand and supports their community – and everybody wins

Whether or not the ACA remains “the law of the land,” or is repealed following the November elections, we all need to think about the delivery of healthcare in a more comprehensive manner. In order to achieve success in this new business model, healthcare providers must be prepared to lead the cultural shift. I would say that the shift starts with the words themselves – instead of healthcare providers and healthcare architects, weneed to become healthcare partners working toward a common goal.

I invite you to share your comments with me and begin a dialogue on how we can improve the design process – and in turn – improve the healthcare system.

Topics: Architecture, Healthcare Design, Affordable Care Act (ACA), hospitals, Architects, Continuous Improvement, Healthcare, Advisory Services