One should no longer talk only about patient-centredness but also about visitor-centredness. The patients in the wards as well as their personal visitors, family and friends, will remain the main focus, but all visitors should be seen as important. This includes everyone seeking health or social services of any kind, as well as people from the surrounding communities dropping in at the restaurants, cafés, shops and art exhibitions. Students and researchers in the knowledge centres, as well as entertainers, such as clowns, who are there to contribute to the creation of a healing environment, are all important groups. Just as it was in the original Asclepieions!
The more our future hospital starts to look and feel like an Asclepieion, or, alternatively, a modern version of the Nightingale pavilion hospital, the more central these questions become. The number of visitors who are strictly speaking not “patients”, will grow in these urban hubs, which provide many more reasons for people to drop by than happens in our existing hospitals today. Future accommodation schedules, as well as urban (zoning) plans, should make allowance for this and all buildings for cure and care should be seen as multifunctional hybrids.
The role of art as an important element in hospitals has been a major talking point for some time. It has become an easy “healing environment – wash” when designing and building new hospitals. A percentage of the budget is set aside for art and the “experts” decide what kind of art it should be spent on. The results are often unsatisfactory. Art in hospitals should be used in the same way as art is used in cities, to provide highlights, as well as help in placemaking and wayfinding. It should not, as is often unfortunately the case, used as random stick-on applications, or to cover up ugly appliances.
Popular notions about the nature of “healing” art often lead to second rate results. On the contrary, art created for hospitals should be anything but neutral and meaningless. There are historical examples of powerful works in old and new hospitals by great artists as diverse as Rogier van der Weyden, Piero della Francesca, Andrea and Luca Della Robbia, El Greco, Isaac Grünewald, Henry Moore, Naum Gabo and Anthony Gormley. As can be seen from these names, diverse yes, but never neutral nor meaningless. From the time of the Asclepieions, good hospitals have, also in this respect, presented the best that the surrounding community has had to offer.
The results of the most convincing and frequently quoted evidence-based research show that the correlation between the patient experience, clinical outcomes, as well as staff wellbeing and productivity, are so closely knit together that the link between all these aspects is undeniable. Thus, more or less the same solutions apply to all three headlines, the most important one being the quality of the architecture. According to Vitruvius, good architecture is all about “commodity, firmness and delight”. Maybe now, in the 21st century, we could, when talking about hospitals, start using the words “functional, technically sound, and beautiful”.