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What Today’s Health Care Consumer Wants

The delivery of health care has changed dramatically in the last decade.  No longer is the hospital a place known for its antiseptic smell and the green tiled corridor walls coldly lit by suspended fluorescent light fixtures. Thankfully, in most communities, this memory of the hospital is far in the distant past. Today’s health care consumer has different expectations of the place where they receive health care, whether in a hospital or at a doctor’s office.

The changing models of care have forced a change in the types of buildings where health care is provided, with the biggest change being a dramatic increase in the number of outpatient facilities and medical office buildings.  These types of facilities bring healthcare directly to the people, where ever they may be, even if they are not in close proximity to a hospital.

Many changes have prompted the growth and success of these stand alone facilities. For example, the demographics of our society have changed and the aging population, although not always in need of hospitalization, may require consistent care, for example for a chronic illness like diabetes.  Technological advances in health care are made on what seems to be a daily basis and many minimally invasive and non-invasive procedures now can take place in an out-patient facility rather than a hospital requiring an expensive overnight stay. The economics of ambulatory is clearly evident in the bottom line. These facilities are not only faster and less expensive to build, but also cheaper to run and maintain than a 24 hour a day hospital. They are also more profitable.

Outpatient facilities are everywhere, on each corner and even in many shopping complexes. Locating these facilities in high traffic areas goes hand in hand with making health care easily accessible. But perhaps more importantly, easy access makes healthcare a part of daily life which is a modern phenomenon. Health care reform has moved firmly away from just treating the illness and instead creating a whole life of wellness. This focus on wellness has also created a different architectural image for health centers. The buildings and spaces within them have a more ‘hotel’ or ‘hospitality’ feel.

The trend in creating ‘homey’ environments delivers a clear message about comfort and personalization of care. Doctors don’t make house calls anymore, but we can bring the house to you. Health care consumers are also concerned with their privacy, keeping their level of stress down during a doctor visit or procedure and the environment impacts these emotions.

Convenient, one stop shopping attracts and retains health care consumers. If a person has a doctor’s appointment, they want to be able to get an x-ray and even a prescription filled in the same place.  The facility that can provide this will see repeat clientele.

Health care planners, facilities directors and architects have an opportunity to influence consumers from the moment they drive to a facility, on the walk into the building, on the path to their destination, in the waiting room and exam room and then again as they leave the appointment or procedure. Each part of their experience creates an opportunity to enhance and support the mission of the health care provider. Each part of the experience is an opportunity to make the consumer aware that they are receiving exceptional care and to continue to serve them.