There is a virtual vise applying significant pressure on hospitals today. On one side is the desire to improve patient outcomes, which supports evidence-based design and can be a key criterion in pay-for-performance compensation.

On the other side there is increasing competition as users view everything from physicians to facilities through the eyes of the savvy consumer, requesting better care, more amenities, and the kind of customer service that has traditionally been associated more with hotels than hospitals.

One strategy that alleviates the pressure from both sides is that of incorporating family-friendly features into the patient room. Let’s look at some benefits, as well as some compatible design strategies, in the second installment of this two-part online series. 

Additional amenities

Just as family members need in-room amenities, additional public amenities provide an experience that is more akin to hospitality than healthcare. These might include:

  • Access to resources that provide education on the patient’s illness, which can easily be accomplished through the Internet via the patient-room television as well as through resource centers in more public areas of the hospital. 
  • A place for paper or computer work. Spouses and other family members can then work, pay bills, etc., while patients are resting.
  • A place for meditation/reflection/faith. We all need quiet time in calm places away from the hustle and bustle of the patient floor. Chapels, quiet rooms, and on-site massage/spa facilities all are viable options. Healing gardens and green roofs not only provide respite, but access to fresh air, nature, and daylight, which are known to support healing and reduce stress for patients and family members.               

Extended family members and non-traditional families

Because the definition of what constitutes a family has broadened, it is essential to think about how to incorporate non-traditional families into the patient care team. For example, some pediatric patients have parents who are divorced, remarried, or not on friendly terms. Yet both parents want to be in the hospital with the child. 

Obstetrics floors may need to accommodate dad, mom, mother-in-law, etc., recognizing that in different families, regions, and cultures, the definition of what constitutes immediate family varies in size and structure.  Faith-healing and non-traditional medicine provide physical, emotional, and psychological comfort for patients and their families, making accommodation of such strategies both a healing and a marketing tool. 

The patient’s ability to shop for healthcare providers and hospitals, as well as increased emphasis on pay for performance, mean that all the little strategies hospitals employ to improve wellbeing and limit stress for patients, their families, and their care providers add up to an attractive package to offer potential customers while supporting positive patient outcomes.

To read the first installment of this series, please visit

Jeani Natwick, AIA, is a principal with NAC|Architecture. She can be reached at