How Was Your Stay?

First, a confession: I do not specialize in hotel design. I design, research and program healthcare projects. While hospitals have certainly tried in recent years to embrace the aesthetics of hotel design to create a more welcoming and less institutional environment, I think that the synergy between these two archetypes goes far deeper. More than imitation, this is a fusion spawned by recent trends in healthcare that creates an opportunity for both industries:
Trend 1: A hospital stay does not make you “all better”
Patients admitted to hospitals are sicker than ever before due in large part to the fact that so many procedures can be performed on an outpatient basis. You need to have had a significant illness, catastrophic accident or major surgery to qualify as an inpatient today. Simultaneously, hospitals have come under pressure from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid services as well as insurance companies to shorten lengths of stay. Discharged inpatients therefore, may still be in a precarious state of health.
Trend 2: Both caregivers and patients are getting older.
The increase in the elderly population is also a factor in the ability of a discharged patient to function at a very high level upon discharge. All of this places added burden on the caregiver(s), who may themselves have compromised health.

Trend 3: Consumers are driving the healthcare marketplace.
Patients and their families are realizing that they have choices. They are demanding convenience, access, responsiveness and amenity from their healthcare providers. Many hospitals are beginning to provide concierge service to VIP patients. Additionally, families often want short term child care, reference libraries, and better food choices. 

Trend 4: A greater emphasis on wellness and prevention has emerged
Many healthcare systems are now offering alternative and complementary therapies such as massage, yoga and acupuncture. They are also expanding campus design to include things like on-site walking or fitness trails, and community education rooms within the facility.

Many major hospitals are served by nearby hotels, including some franchises directly owned by the healthcare institution and located on-campus, and I see an opportunity do more than provide accommodations for families during a hospital stay or a convention venue. As a building type, hotels are consumer oriented and focused on the total guest experience. Designers of hotel environments as well as their clients understand the value of positive distraction and captivating guests during their stay.

As healthcare clients shift their focus from purely functional spaces to ones that incorporate evidence-based design strategies, the connection between the environment and the health of patients and performance of staff is undeniable. Market trends have also necessitated a re-evaluation of traditional business models and rethinking of the spectrum of services provided. Healthcare design teams are working with owners to create spaces that are relaxing and comforting, perhaps even inspirational, instead of clinical. Collaboration with hotel designers could produce inspired hybrid architecture that also results in construction and operational savings for both due to the ability to share spaces and create operational efficiencies. Hotels already know how to offer excellent amenities that can seamlessly integrate with the goal of a healthcare institution such as wellness services and alternative therapies for both patients and families, in spas, gyms and grounds, venues for educational an community classes, and possibly even providing a transitional environment for discharged inpatients who may not be fully ready to return home. An inpatient room and a hotel room are not that dissimilar after all.