Take a large group of healthcare designers and healthcare professionals and ship them off to Las Vegas for a conference and see what happens. The result was HEALTHCARE DESIGN.10, which was held November 13-16, 2010. While there was an amazing exchange of knowledge from educational sessions, keynote speakers, facility tours, and the exhibition hall—there was also a learning opportunity based on the place, or the city of Las Vegas.

By design, Las Vegas is an overload of grand distraction. Unless searching for the casinos, wayfinding is intentionally confusing. Excess is standard; I found six Cirque du Soleil shows within walking distance of my hotel. I got lost strolling through the meandering corridors of the Venetian, gazing at unaffordable shops and pondering which of the hundreds of restaurants to sample for dinner. I stood in awe at the Bellagio fountains and was fixated by the sculptural glass ceiling that seemed to float from the hotel lobby ceiling. The line between night and day blurred with little to no access to natural views accompanied by constantly bright, flashy lighting.

While these aren't your typical evidence-based design positive distractions, they are effective. The hotels and token casinos are designed as a maze, designed to entice, designed to make one forget time ever existed, and designed to provide everything you will ever need within the hotel's walls. Amenities abound, including restaurants, bars, spas, lounges, retail stores, coffee shops, shows, and, of course, casinos.

The walk from the hotel to the conference convention center boasted several shopping options and more food than one typically finds in a city center. I could have dined at an upscale Mexican restaurant, grabbed a quick bite at a sandwich shop, or boosted my energy with a coffee. Most impressive, the restrooms were designed as a destination complete with wood walls, cove lighting, and fancy signage. Las Vegas design embraced the boldness of placing the restrooms in the center of busy corridors.

As healthcare designers, we can learn a lesson about how to activate long corridors people navigate through hospital facilities. While hospital corridors are best left without the flashing lights and gambling amenities, one can’t help but think that so much activity within the hospital walls is, indeed, a matter of chance. Hospitals and the people within them could benefit from purposeful design that entices the senses, sparks curiosity, and encourages discovery, much like Las Vegas.