Portraying an Environment of Care… in the Garage?

Over the last several years, I have had the privilege of visiting and conducting business in over a hundred hospitals across America. The one trend universal to every facility is the use of the soothing messaging: “Hello, relax. We are here to help.” In other words from the lobby to the elevator, hospitals have switched from the feeling of a morgue to the sensation of a resort in order to enhance the patient experience through a tranquil atmosphere. So then why do a majority of patients associate a cold and depressed feeling with the hospital? With the exception of public transportation, the very first and very last impression a patient has on their hospital experience is parking! You can visit any hospital today and more than likely enjoy concierge services in the bathroom (personally not a fan of this one in public, much less the hospital…), an elevator with calming music, a cozy couch in the lobby, a latte at the on-site Starbucks, or elaborate puzzles in a children’s hospital. However, when it comes to the garage, why does it feel and look like your grandparents’ basement?

If I am already uneasy coming to the hospital in the first place, how is a drafty, gray, dungeon-like atmosphere going to alleviate that?

It’s not.

Unfortunately, many hospitals do not consider this question because we, as patients and guests, have become accustomed to the standard of a garage being just that; a concrete structure strictly purposed for holding cars. Forget the appearance; just get the patients in and out! Sounds a bit like the old model of a hospital interior doesn’t it?

But isn’t that exactly what was changed to enhance patient care? Couldn’t the garage mimic the inside of the hospital to produce the same effect? Can our children be a little less apprehensive about that assessment or treatment if the garage screamed “FUN!” There absolutely has to be a higher emphasis on creating a warm environment of care in the garage just as there is in the hospital.

In a children’s hospital, it can be as simple as utilizing fun bright colors, animated characters on the walls, and children’s music playing. In a cancer facility, display the photos, videos, and success stories posted inside the hospital. How about utilizing a combination of calming colors, relaxing music, and parking ambassadors for a general hospital and a gentle approach? The moral of my rant is that it is admirable that hospitals are making an effort to create a warm environment, but these efforts should have started with the garage. Just because the structure of a garage naturally creates a dull cold feel doesn’t mean it has to stay that way. Do we live in our homes with nothing but a wood/concrete frame and no walls?

Don’t let your patients enter the hospital with the anxieties they left home with. Rather, calm their feelings the minute they enter the garage with an inspirational experience and maintain this calm atmosphere inside the hospital.

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