Good design may revolutionize healthcare industry, improve outcomes

One team of architects and designers thinks smart design can revolutionize healthcare the way it's done for electronics and aircrafts, and they have a final product, named Patient Room 2020.

NXT Health, a non-profit healthcare design organization, describes itself as a "research and development shop that the healthcare industry has always lacked." They charge that the healthcare industry has always failed to consider function in design in an article in CNN's Fortune.

"We think that design has the power to revolutionize industries, just as it has in electronics, in cars, in everything else," Salley Whitman, executive director of NXT Health, told Fortune. "But in health care we haven't tapped into that in a systematic way."

In 2006, NXT Health received a Department of Defense grant to help produce "the hospital room of the future"--one that actually improves outcomes for individuals. This wouldn't require federal legislation, or high-tech inventions, just better design.

Patient Room 2020 was revealed for the first time this month in New York City. According to the article, it's meant to address the following healthcare issues:

  • a lack of patient engagement in his or her own treatment;
  • hospital-acquired infections;
  • caregiver inefficiency; and
  • overall patient discomfort, which "can distract from rehabilitation and generally can make hospital rooms miserable environments."

Designing the room was a systems approach, which is often used in other industries, but not healthcare.

"In the future there are going to be fewer hospitals, so when we build those hospitals we better build them right," Whitman says. "We need to build them in a highly engineered, highly technological way so that they are actually part of the care process, not just an appendage."

Last year, it was reported that some hospitals were using hotel-like design elements to attract insured patients and generate better outcomes and profits--CEO of Henry Ford West Bloomfield (Mich.) Hospital Gerard van Grinsven described them as "wellness" services to improve the patient experience.

Another unconventional approach to improving the healing process is the advent of gardens and green spaces in hospitals, which have been said to help patients heal faster.

To learn more:
- read the Fortune article

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