The power of design: hospitals

I’ve seen the inside of many hospitals. My mom was a nurse at various hospitals for 40 years. In our family, I was the kid with the most emergency room visits. I’ve broken both collarbones, a wrist, and a toe, undergone a couple of surgeries, and survived a few serious illnesses. I’ve also been caretaker for two chronically and severely ill family members.

One thing that’s been universally true about hospitals: they are labyrinths. Floor plans have no unifying logic, signage is inadequate and jargony, and bland interior decoration is disorienting. Navigation is hard enough when you’re healthy. Illness just compounds the frustration.

A recent Wall St. Journal article gives some hope that hospitals are turning to design to help people find their way around. Hospitals around the country are installing interactive kiosks, create smartphone apps, erecting artistic landmarks, and mounting large external signage.

If your next visit to the hospital feels more like a trip to the shopping mall, you’re not hallucinating. As one executive quoted in the article says, “People can always find the Gap but it’s not that easy to find Radiology.”

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