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Last week, I shared Suzen Heeley's comments about her organization engaging an experiential design consultant who'd worked in the aviation industry during its planning process.

Heeley is the Executive Director, Design + Construction at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York City.

"Patients are anxious," she said during a panel discussion at the ACE Summit and Reverse Expo in Atlanta. "They're sitting in waiting areas. They don't want to go far from the reception desk because they don't want to be forgotten. It's a parallel experience in an airport."

Right.  Travelers don't want to miss their flights -- or announcements about their flights.  So they stay by the gate.

Monetizing the Patient Experience

Heeley explained that airports have begun "monetizing" the gate -- adding convenient access to food service and other amenities.

I did a little research to find out more. Mobile carts stocked with drinks, snacks, magazines, etc. are already in use at some airports. New apps like Airport Sherpa and At Your Gate bring food and other retail purchases right to gate-huggers.

"How can we apply those concepts to our facilities to create patient and staff experiences that are much more positive and stress-reducing?" Heeley asked.

Make It Convenient to Wait

I'm thinking of the expansive sky lobby waiting area on the seventh floor of the Center for Care and Discovery on the University of Chicago Medicine's campus (below). A mobile cart or delivery app would be perfect there.

Center for Care and Discovery

And remember when you had to scour the public areas in airports for a plug to charge your cell phone?  Wait until the person hogging the one outlet on the concourse to leave so you could take over? Now charging outlets are everywhere in airports.

While many furniture manufacturers have incorporated outlets into modular seating units for hospital and clinic waiting areas, there's still a lot of old-style ganged seating in healthcare facilities.

Looking at the "What If"

If you google "what healthcare can learn from aviation," you'll find a bunch of articles about consumer safety measures the airline industry has adopted that could benefit healthcare. Which is all good stuff.

But as the aviation industry continues to look at ways to improve the traveler experience, perhaps the healthcare industry can use it to challenge its thinking.

"Bringing in consultants that toss out those 'what if' ideas engenders thinking that breaks past the healthcare industry," Heeley said. "In terms of the future, that's what we need to do."

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Leave a comment

Peter Smith

5 years ago

Hello Sara,
Many thanks for posting this timely and relevant article. It's always good to cross pollinate experiences and ideas across sectors.
Kind regards,
Peter Smith

Sara Marberry_013-Retouched-New copy

What's my story? I'm a healthcare and senior living design knowledge expert who writes and speaks frequently about trends and issues affecting these two industries. I'm also a strategic marketing consultant and content creator, working with companies and organizations who want to improve the quality of healthcare and senior living through the design of the physical environment. You can reach me at .

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