Happy New Year! What’s on your list of resolutions?

Health and organization seem to top most of our lists—and no one more so than healthcare facility owners. What if you could combine both health and organization into a plan that would transform your healthcare facility into a place of well-being? Here are four simple steps to achieve an easy environmental audit that can lead to a new plan for action.

Consider your brand promise to your customer base, the distillation of the public relations message that’s sent to patients and families as well as your clinical staff. What is it that you convey in your print, broadcast, and electronic media to express your brand promise? Ask yourself what type of facility delivers such a service? Can you see in your mind’s eye the interior design needed? If you can, then so does your customer. Can you deliver that expectation to them in their next clinical visit? Articulate the facility design that can deliver on their expectation.

Hypothesize the outcomes of health that are achievable through interior design and maintenance. Knowing which questions to ask is the hardest part of an evidence-based design methodology. Frame health as a state of well-being and then seek one major facility-related outcome, such as lowering stress and anxiety.

If patients can begin their healthcare journey with a series of clues that the experience, no matter the medical outcome, will be personal and with their best interests in mind, then their perception of care will be elevated.

Conduct a visual audit of your facility’s first impression. As he built the University Medical Center at Princeton of Plainsboro in Plainsboro Township, N.J., CEO Barry Rabner followed a mantra shared by a hospitality consultant at a Pebble meeting that experiences are formed into impressions “in the first 60 seconds up the drive, and the first 6 feet in the front door.” Those impressions create the perceptions of the care that’s to follow.

Like most healthcare facilities, first impressions are usually overwhelming, complex, and rarely calming. Can you map the promised experience for different populations by taking a simple walk around and noting where the contradictions are? A walkthrough like this will identify the low-hanging fruit to inform a plan that can align your brand with your desired outcomes.

Less is more, to quote a famous Bauhaus architect. Take your experience map and attack just a few issues. For instance, look at wayfinding. Start by taking down any paper signs taped to a wall and replace them with a more permanent solution, and clarify key decision points by adding distinctive landmarks like a recognizable work of art. Or think about providing positive distractions where patients need it most—in patient, exam, and waiting rooms—with a real or artistic gesture of nature.

Simple edits like these begin to reshape your facility image as more patient-centered. As you develop next year’s capital projects list, consider more complex edits as well as adding new policies that allow you to educate staff about how interior design affects outcomes.

These four steps will allow you to take a fresher look at delivering a better customer experience. First, articulate your brand; second, hypothesize the experience needed to deliver the expectation of your brand; third, audit your facilities to match that expectation into a perception; and fourth, edit away toward a clear and focused evidence-based patient experience that will raise satisfaction levels.


Rosalyn Cama, FASID, EDAC, is president and principal interior designer of Cama Inc., in New Haven, Conn. She is the board of directors chair for The Center for Health Design and can be reached at rcama@camainc.com.