Spread The Word
An urgent, but thankfully treatable, condition landed my dad in the hospital a couple of years ago. As I pulled into the parking lot to see him, it occurred to me that it had been some time since I’d last stepped through the front door of my hometown healthcare provider—long before I had this job or covered facility design.
I was curious to see how my perception may have shifted with this inside knowledge. I looked around. Was there natural light, decent acoustics, patient privacy? The short answer: not really. Most alarming was the unease I felt as my family members and I crammed ourselves into his half of a double room and attempted conversation at a level that wouldn’t disturb his roommate, all while pretending not to overhear caregivers on the other side of the curtain.
It was a valuable reminder that the projects Healthcare Design features each issue are still, quite often, the exception to the rule of our country’s aging infrastructure.
A couple of weeks ago I got another reminder, but this one hit me a little harder. It was a recent op-ed piece in The New York Times by Dr. Dhruv Khullar, a resident physician at Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School. “As a doctor, I’m struck daily by how much better hospitals could be designed,” he writes in “Bad Hospital Design Is Making Us Sicker.” Khullar notes that despite hospitals’ hefty price tags and inherent complexities, evidence suggests they’ve been built all wrong—and to the detriment of those inside.
He goes on to detail research findings that indicate private patient rooms can combat healthcare-associated infection risk, that decentralized nurses’ stations can help reduce falls, that sound-absorbing materials can improve sleep. He even calls upon Roger Ulrich’s seminal “room with a view” research. The kicker? All of these mentions are couched as new insights.
While Khullar made it to the research, he apparently missed that there’s a huge industry that already knows these things. What he describes is the baseline of any new hospital construction project. He needn’t have looked very far, either: The Lunder Building on his own campus has been widely lauded in recent years for its design innovations.
I see this as our collective “trip to visit dad” moment, a reminder that there’s always more work to be done.
Yes, that work lies within the massive existing building stock that still dots the healthcare landscape, begging to be replaced. But it’s also in shaping a message that says: “We got this.” It’s great that the importance of the built environment on better healthcare experiences is being recognized, but wouldn’t it be even better if his article, published in one of the nation’s most venerable media outlets, went on to applaud the progress you’re all making? It’s up to you (and us), then. Don’t forget to share that story.