I'm tired of marketing getting a bad rap in healthcare design. Of journalists who write that the main reason hospitals are building "fancy" new facilities and filling them with amenities is marketing.
So what? As my friend and service marketing expert Leonard Berry said to me recently, "Design is part of marketing. It communicates, it delivers product quality, it impacts image and reputation."
The retail, hospitality, banking, and airline industries have long known this. And companies like Apple, whose products and packaging are designed so you feel excited and cool just opening the box.
But customers have always had a choice in who they do business with in those industries. So design -- of everything related to their business -- has always mattered.
Consumer Choice in Healthcare
Well, guess what? We're entering an era where healthcare consumers will have more choice of where they go for their care. It's about time.
So why shouldn't healthcare organizations make facility design part of their brand strategy to attract and retain patients? Give them a better experience? Oh, yeah, and maybe improve safety and quality of care while they are at it.
And good design doesn't just have to be for the wealthiest patients in the best part of town. I bet that, although their tastes may be different, the lower and middle classes appreciate good design just as much as the upper class.
Retail health clinics haven't yet realized design's potential. If the CVS drug store five minutes from my house would design a nicer Minute Clinic, I might go there to get my flu shot instead of my doctor's office, which is 20 minutes away.
Good Design Can't Make Up for Poor Care
I go to a dentist who is more expensive than most. But he has a really nice office with nice furniture, soothing colors, and a digital fish tank that calms my nerves as I sit in the waiting room. I feel comfortable there. I also like him and his staff. So the whole experience is pleasant. They designed it to be that way.
In the end, though, good design can't make up for poor care. Good healthcare experiences start with the front-line staff who interact and care for patients.
But good design can support staff to do their jobs better. And make them feel better about where they work.
What's so bad about that?
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