How a theme-park design can benefit hospitals

Not many people think of a hospital visit as a good time for the whole family, yet one designer says that healthcare organizations can improve patient experiences if they operate more like theme parks, according to an opinion piece for Fast Company Design.

Hospitals can use technology to create an immersive environment rather than more traditional, but less interesting, design principles, writes Nick de la Mare, a theme park experience designer and co-founder of design firm Big Tomorrow.

"Today, technology is also being used to improve some of the more mundane aspects of an amusement park's experience, so that the magic doesn't stop when you climb off the roller-coaster," de la Mare says. Hospitals and healthcare institutions can use these same types of technology to create a less confusing, more personalized experience for each patient.

One of the original experience designers, he notes, was Frederick Law Olmsted, who designed Central Park in New York City and Golden Gate Park in San Francisco. In each space, he included "decompression zones" to break up the amount of stimulus and keep participants from feeling stressed or overwhelmed.

These experiential rhythms can make hospitals a less hostile and alienating environment for patients, de la Mare writes. And it's equally important to adopt the same "guest-first" mindset as the theme park industry, such as a computer system that familiarizes itself with individual patients and contributes to the most patient-centered experience possible.

Experience design can be a major driver in an institution's path to greater patient satisfaction, and is therefore good for the bottom line. Patients with good healthcare experiences will return to a hospital and refer it to others.

In his 2004 book If Disney Ran Your Hospital: 9 ½ Things You Would Do Differently, Disney executive Fred Lee said that hospitals should engage patients on a human level, not as case numbers or accounts. "A service of courtesy is not enough in our business if we are not also meeting people's emotional needs," Lee told a meeting of healthcare executives in 2014.

Furthermore, good physical design can help hospital improve work flow, infection control and indepartmental communication, which lead to better patient outcomes. 

To learn more:
- read the opinion piece