Ideal Hospital of the Future: Make Believe

Warning: This is a shamelessly idealistic post, containing healthy doses of sarcasm, imaginative design, and other neat, unrealistic stuff that'll probably never show up within hospital walls.

Say I had carte blanche to design my ideal hospital. For the purposes of this exercise, cost and time are not applicable. Luckily, there's no better place to throw off these constraints than in the blogosphere, where they can't impact operations or fog up the rose-colored glasses.

In this post I'll focus on the 'soft' side, or aesthetics and design. In later posts I'll focus on service aspects and the continuum of care. Not sure what I'd name this dream hospital...anything but "Valhalla." For now I'll call it "Salutis."

Hospitals are environments of caring for the sick, the dying. Salutis would provide a comprehensive environment of healing focused on both acute care and wellness management, using the Wellness Pyramid (mental, spiritual/emotional, physical).

I'd want to see green out my window (healing gardens, water fixtures, a green eco-roof), not flying out of my wallet (although if a hospital looked like any of the environs below, I'd gladly cough up the cash).

With fifteen ortho surgeries under my belt, trust me - the view matters far more to your patients (the conscious ones anyway) than you'd like to admit. Of course, if your house isn't in order, the window dressing won't matter much.

So - arrival/parking. No sooner would the car door close than a volunteer or candidate hired out of retirement (including those who win the AARP model contest) would zoom up in a complimentary transport vehicle. Candidates with mobility issues would also be encouraged to apply. Some hospitals are already doing this (not the AARP model thing, the boomer-volunteers-or-employees-in-golf-carts-thing).

Either that, or you'd steer the wheels to a complimentary valet parking area. Some hospitals are already doing this as well.

To enter Salutis, you'd walk through a spacious, light and open atrium (think UCSD Academic Medical Center).

Entering your room, you breathe "ah, this looks like (insert the environs of your choice from the list below):"

1. The Ritz.
2. A Restoration Hardware showroom.
3. Ernest Hemingway's writing studio (ok, so I'm getting a bit carried away here, but that would sure be MY ideal hospital room).
4. One of the Kimpton Boutique hotels.
5. Disneyland/something Nickelodeon would concoct.
6. A spa in Taos or some other remote, pristine area of New Mexico.
7. A fashion-forward restaurant/bar/hotel straight from the streets of London (Womb chairs and all).
8. "A super Best Buy!" yells my husband, an IT guy.
9. The command deck of the Starship Enterprise.

Dream Team design roster I'd hire:

1. Architecture/blueprints by RTKL Associates, the genius team behind The Heart Hospital, Baylor Plano Texas.
2. Team behind Apple's iPhone.
3. Designers from Swedish home powerhouse Ikea.
4. Designers from Droog.
5. Uniforms and guest/patient attire (bathrobe style) by Isaac Mizrahi and Michael Kors. Hey, if Izaac can do it for Target, he can do it for Salutis.
6. Fixtures by Michael Graves (also a Target talent extraoordinaire, which means he can work with mass production systems and leverage economies of scale).
7. Furnishings by Karim Rashid, Philippe Starck.
8. Bed linens by Tord Boontje.
9. Complimentary weird + ugly dolls on each bed (holding a customized greeting and goodie) by BabyGeared (I'm partial to Pig-Pig).
10. Food/menu by Sobo Cafe chef (Baltimore's Inner Harbor/Federal Hill).
11. Drinks by (of course) Starbucks, Jamba Juice, Honest Tea, and Jones Soda.
12. Payment systems & back office design by Jonathan Bush, Athena Health.
13. Identity/Operations Critique (Chief Identity Officer, Chief Talent Officer, Chief of Running Smoothly) & Vision Research, Design, & Implementation (formerly called PR) by Matthew Holt (The Healthcare Blog) and Paul Levy (if I can hire him away from Harvard).
14. Guest Relations Teams designed and trained by yours truly with a Patient Advocate, Concierge, CNA, on every floor, with a centrally located desk area easily accessed from the elevators (they also get a very snazzy uniform, perhaps something by J Crew or Brooks Brothers).
15. "Recharge Room" (one per floor) design by Jonathan Adler.
16. RFID tech, including automated medication systems, by Savi Technologies. Salutis Hospital would become a preeminent center for health IT, medication/equipment/supply tracking and management, etc.
17. Poetry Therapy/Poets on the Wards program designed by John Fox, CPT, Rafael Campo, and Lucille Clifton.
18. Portable DVD players (I'd do away with fixed televisions completely) and laptops (by Dell) available via the Guest Relations Team for checkout by patients and visitors (ever been sitting in the corner of a hospital room bored to tears while your loved one is sleeping the sweet dreams of the heavily medicated? portable DVD player + earphones = window to blessed release).
19. Aquarium Design (what can I say - aquariums are among my favorite places, calming, soothing, tranquil) by Aquarium Design Group.

Employees, called "the talent" by admins, are thrilled to work at a magnet facility with:
  • free coffee/tea/water
  • a chapel
  • a meditation room
  • yoga/pilates/cardio onsite in the Optimal Wellness (rehab medicine) center
  • onsite childcare & lactation rooms
  • free parking/weekly car washes
  • onsite drycleaning (Texas Scottish Rite Children's Hospital)
  • an internet lab with free access
  • free weekly continuing education/professional advancement groups a la Toastmasters
  • 1 day off per month (minimum) for volunteering/social wellness activities
  • a restaurant (Akron City Hospital) with gourmet offerings in 30 minutes or less - employees and family entitled to 1 complimentary meal a month
  • an art gallery with periodic community shows by local artists and themed exhibitions (free)
  • strolling musicians (guests can request a musician from a menu modeled after dietary options - I'd call it "Creative Time Killers")
  • recorded or 'canned' music provided by local choral groups and orchestras, as well as bands
  • onsite massages for staff, 1 every 2 weeks

How much would this systemic vision of idealistic design cost? Who knows? Probably a few billion.

The problem with hospitals today isn't systems, it's that systems have overwhelmed people.

Systems for payment. Systems for reimbursement. Systems for hiring and firing. Systems for benefits. Systems for purchasing. Systems for scheduling. Systems for operations. Systems for licensing and certification. Systems overwhelming people.

People who work, people who heal, people who are sick, people who need surgeries, people who guide/lead/boss/mentor/manage, people who struggle to pay. People who die when the system doesn't work. People who die when the system does work.

So how do you attract people? People to work, people to check in, people to notice and comment? People to heal and evangelize? Overhaul your systems. Revolutionize your design. Become a 'hospital of the future.'

If you build it, they WILL come. I sure will.

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