A Good First Impression

Hospital lobby of Lucile Packard Children's HospitalA hospital’s design can affect a visitor’s social, psychological, and environmental impressions within just a few minutes, just as entering a hotel lobby can create a sense of the overall experience. Now hospitals are learning from the hospitality industry in creating a positive first impression.

Packard Children’s new expansion has taken many of these lessons to heart, says George R. Tingwald, MD, AIA, a credentialed architect and a general surgeon and director of medical planning for Packard Children’s and Stanford Hospital & Clinics.

“Hospital design needs to be based on human nature. Patients and visitors form their impressions of quality very quickly—what I call surrogate evidence,” he says. “Most of what takes place in a hospital is extremely complex and behind the scenes, so visitors tend to focus on what they can understand and see. Good design makes areas of potential anxiety orderly and calming.”

Natural light, colorful graphics, and well-maintained landscaping have all been integrated into the planning process. The physical layout must make it easy to get around, he adds, which reduces the confusion and stress that usually accompany a trip to the hospital. And research shows that a welcoming health-care environment can actually promote healing.

“If you control the quality of the first impression, you set the overall standard of quality,” Tingwald says. “Does it feel safe? Is it easy to get around? Has attention been paid to the details?  Those design elements will set the tone and make patients and their families more relaxed and less anxious.”

Packard Children’s design also integrates the outdoors, with more than three acres of gardens and landscaping, so patients and families can have contact with nature, proven in many studies to improve recovery time and reduce stress.

“This is a truly extraordinary physical environment, with weather, views, and sunlight that simply are not present elsewhere,” Tingwald adds. “It offers us the opportunity to make healing gardens and contemplative outdoor spaces, as well as places for children to play and socialize. Incorporating nature is another design element that can make the hospital environment more welcoming and family-friendly.”

It’s no coincidence that the words “hospital” and “hospitality” share the same Latin root; Packard Children’s new expansion will integrate these concepts even more.


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