As the stories about yesterday's horrific bombing in Boston continue to emerge, I'm reminded of the critical role hospitals play in times like this.
Modern Healthcare reported that seven Boston area hospitals were treating at least 143 people, many of whom were critically injured or in serious condition. The emergency department, of course, is the front line in situations like this, and I can only imagine how chaotic things were in the EDs at these hospitals yesterday afternoon.
Incidents like this also remind me how important waiting areas are for anxious family members and friends of the victims. Many probably spent the night in the ED -- or at least a good portion of it. And you can bet that their experience will have an impact on the overall experience of their loved one when he or she eventually fills out the HCAHPS questions.
Very few studies have been done on the impact of the physical environment of ED waiting areas on anxiety, but there are some that come up in a search of The Center for Health Design's Knowledge Repository. Obviously, furniture is important to waiting spaces, but providing positive distractions, like artwork or access to nature and natural light has also been found to reduce anxiety. Privacy is another issue.
I recently toured the University of Chicago's new Center for Care and Discovery (watch for my article in the June issue of Healthcare Design), where architects Rafael Vinoly & Associates had designed enclosed square "pods" in the the building's massive sky lobby to address privacy. Not every building has this type of space to work with, but it is an interesting concept.
Patient satisfaction expert Mary Malone thinks that waiting areas should be called "hospitality areas," because waiting is stressful. She's also questioned why we create rooms for waiting and has challenged those designing new or renovating existing healthcare facilities to re-think this concept.
I don't know what the waiting areas are like in the seven Boston hospitals that treated the bombing victims, but I do hope some of them had some design features that were able to provide some comfort.
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