December 2008

Designing Better Healthcare

What image comes to your mind when you think of a hospital?

Most people describe it like this – a crowded lobby, long serpentine queues, wandering visitors under-lit passage ways, packed up wards, overworked nurses, stressed out doctors, a nauseous stink, and depressingly enough, tired and worn-out patients.

Now, picture this – you walk into a hospital with a pleasant lobby to greet you, no visible queues, a comfortable waiting area, happy visitors going around, well laid-out wards, energetic staff carrying out their duties (surprisingly with a smile), and most unexpected of it all – happy patients.

The latter might have sounded like a clich�d description of a super luxury private hospital set somewhere in the West – certainly not relevant in the context of countries like India. Or does it even mean anything to anybody?

The purpose was not for another mindless comparison with the West, but rather to bring out a crucial element that goes missing in most service facilities that we build (and hospitals in particular) intelligence and aesthetics in design.

If business value-return is your concern, then read on.

Research showed that ‘investing in design does make business sense’. Whether it is financial performance, quality of care, clinical outcome or operational efficiency, influence of advanced design elements is well proven. The Bumrungrad International Hospital in Bangkok sees an average throughput of about 3000 patients daily. Even with such high numbers, one does not witness chaos and confusion like in many other smaller hospitals. This is largely attributable to the detailing in planning and design. And yet, neither awareness nor uptake of these aspects is up to the mark in most projects.

Look up www.healthdesign.org/research/pebble/ for the ‘Pebble Project’ of The Centre for Health Design, California, USA. Started back in 2000, the project covers more than 60 participating hospitals and healthcare institutions, which are testimony to how design innovation and architecture can bring remarkable improvement in healthcare delivery and business outcome.

This is why we decided to have a cover story focusing on facility design and architecture. After all innovation is not taking place in information and communication technology alone!

Enjoy the Christmas and New Year season just round the corner, and do watch out for our second ‘Annual Special Issue’ in January.

Wishing all of you a Merry Christmas and a very Happy New Year.

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