Archive for the ‘Healing Environments’ Category

Last week I published a post about Renown Health’s commitment to taking action outside of the hospital’s walls to address community health. I visited Renown a couple of weeks ago and was thoroughly impressed by so many aspects of their operation. Today I’m sharing some thoughts about what Renown Health is doing within its walls to create a healing and healthy environment for patients, family members, visitors and employees.


Photo Caption: Display of artwork at Renown Health

When I speak at conferences, there are always a few audience members who are surprised to hear me say that many hospitals were not designed with the patient and his or her family in mind. For decades we built institutions that were not patient- and family-friendly and certainly weren’t hospitable. The facilities were cold and stark. They were loud. Lighting was horrible. These were not what I call healing environments. They were places for medical and therapeutic interventions – and for monitoring patients during recovery.

Today we understand that the environment has a lot to do with the patient’s recovery and well-being. It can also impact employees and their job performance. So, thank goodness, we are building amazing new healthcare facilities that truly offer patients, family members and hospital employees a healing and healthy environment. Many new hospitals have circadian lighting to simulate a natural environment. It is common to find artwork on the walls of the facility, and occasionally in patient rooms. I love this trend! Patient rooms now make accommodations for family members spending the night. Many hospitals have even eliminated formal visiting hours and offer valet parking – two patient-centric developments.

Throughout the industry there has also been an effort to make hospitals healthier environments by eliminating smoking and by emphasizing healthy food options in cafeterias and other hospital-based restaurants. Many healthcare organizations now have weekly farmer’s markets for their employees and visitors – emphasizing the importance of good nutrition and healthy eating. And finally, the Green Health movement has led to many hospitals to start using non-toxic building and cleaning products to reduce the negative health impact on patients, visitors and employees.

Within the hospital’s walls: As my colleague and I toured Renown last week we were astounded by the healing environment they have created. And trust me, not every hospital qualifies as having a healing environment. So what has Renown done to distinguish itself? First, Renown has more original art displayed throughout the medical center than I have ever seen within a healthcare organization – paintings, photography and sculpture. There are also amazing healing gardens for adults and children. The adult garden has a labyrinth – an amazing tool for meditation and reflection.


Photo Caption: Glass Sculpture at Renown Health


Photo Caption: Children’s Healing Garden at Renown Health

One of the other patient- and family-friendly features that impressed me as we toured Renown is the abundance of retail within the medical center. Renown Regional Medical Center is home to a variety of shops offering everything from mom and baby gifts to trendy clothing, from fresh-cut flowers to balloons, from sit-down dining to grab-and-go treats. The Shops at Renown Health include a CVS Pharmacy, the Artisan Market Bistro, Starbucks, an upscale Boutique, a floral shop, FreshBerry Frozen Yogurt, Subway, a logo shop for Renown apparel, a traditional gift shot (Sierra Gifts), and a cafe featuring healthy options and cuisine from around the world (Chinese, Mexican, European, Mediterranean, etc). When visiting the shops and restaurants you get a sense of the familiar – a feeling a normalcy. That has to be a calming experience for patients, family members and visitors.

Finally, Renown has full service hotel on the Renown Regional Medical Center campus. The Inn at Renown offers non-smoking rooms perfect for patients and their families, medical center visitors and guests attending on-campus seminars. Three of the rooms include kitchenettes for guests who plan an extended stay.

screen-shot-2017-02-27-at-8-27-27-amThese are just a few of the features I noted while on our tour of Renown Regional Medical Center. The abundance of original art, because it is so visually striking, left the greatest impression upon me. This was particularly true in the Renown Institute for Cancer. When the patient enters the Institute, he or she immediately faces a vibrant wall sculpture. Around every corner is the visitor finds a new piece of art. My guess is that the environment is not at all what first time visitors expect of a cancer center. However, it is what I have come to expect of modern, patient-friendly facilities!

If you’re interested in the creation of healing environments within hospitals, here are some posts I’ve written on the subject in the past:

Vermont Hospitals Embrace Art to Create Healing Environments

Reducing Hospital Noise to Create Healing Environments

Hospitals Offering Concierge Services for Patients

Green Initiatives on the Rise in Healthcare

Bringing the Arts into your Hospital


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For years I have written about the movement to create healing environments within hospitals. It seems strange to say it, but most hospitals fall short in this regard. Most hospitals are loud, have poor lighting, and the decor does nothing to create a soothing, healing setting. They feel institutional. Fortunately, this has been changing over the last several years.

Here’s one extraordinary example. The Susan Sebastian Foundation has just finished placing art in more than 1,000 patient rooms in each of the Vermont’s 14 hospitals. Each piece of art was created by a Vermont Artist. The final hospital to benefit from this effort was Southwestern Vermont Medical Center (SVMC) in Bennington, which received approximately $50,000 in art for its 54 patient rooms. SVMC and the Susan Sebastian Foundation co-sponsored a juried art exhibit of more than 100 pieces from local artists. 54 pieces were selected for the hospital and purchased through the generosity of the Susan Sebastian Foundation.

Screen Shot 2016-06-17 at 3.32.18 PMThe foundation was created in honor of a patient of Vermont hospitals, Susan Sebastian, who was born in Brattleboro Memorial Hospital in 1956. Susan endured a long illness with extensive hospitalizations, and spent a great deal of time looking at the bare walls of hospital rooms. It was her wish that every hospital room in Vermont be hung with gentle, inspiring art by Vermont artists. Since Susan’s death in 2009, her mother Elise Braun has worked to fulfill her daughter’s wish. Braun has used the book Healing Spaces: The Science of Place and Well-Being by Dr. Esther Sternberg to help guide the Foundation’s purchases (paintings and photography), which are meant to take the patient out of the room and into the outdoors to a favorite vista or recreational hobby.

A post from Jennings' Facebook page featuring local art at Copley Hospital in Vermont.

A post from Jennings’ Facebook page featuring local art at Copley Hospital in Vermont.

For me, it is always a pleasure to visit hospitals that have made an effort to introduce art into their facilities. Several of my client hospitals, including Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center (NH), Copley Hospital (VT), Southwestern Vermont Medical Center and Brattleboro Memorial Hospital (VT), have used art to infuse warmth, texture and a sense of the natural world into the medical space. The story of Elise Braun’s work, honoring of her daughter’s wish to bring art into patient rooms, is inspiring. Just think of the thousands of lives that will be positively impacted.

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To me, this is an interesting question (and perhaps to no one else): Do I work in healthcare or marketing? You might say both, but this is fundamentally about the way I see myself? Am I another person working in marketing who just happens to have expertise in healthcare? I don’t think so. Even though I work for a marketing firm, I see myself as someone working in healthcare. Is that a fallacy? (Feel free to tell me so.) I’d like to think that I’m on the team with clinicians, hospital employees, administrators, communicators and patients. Everyday I am immersed in this world of healthcare. Yes, some people may see me as a vendor, but I’m not going to let that limit my reach and worldview.

Screen Shot 2015-06-02 at 4.31.48 PMI was at an event Monday evening that reminded me why I’ve chosen to work in healthcare. My wife and I attended a gathering of donors and board members at SECU Family House – a home away from home for seriously ill adult patients and family members visiting UNC Hospitals. It is one of our favorite causes and one we proudly support. I was an early board member before the house was built, and my firm did pro bono public relations and marketing to support the effort.

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At the event, Scotti and I met people who share our commitment to providing the best possible experience for the patient and family members. In the audience were clinical leaders from UNC Health Care, retired physicians, health system administrators, and community volunteers. We all share the same passion. In this particular case, we don’t want the limited availability and the high cost of hotel rooms to be an impediment to care. The going rate for a room at Family House is $35 per night and the accommodations are spectacular. The house has incredible amenities including a communal kitchen with several ovens and refrigerator space for each guest, beautifully designed common areas, and a wonderful home-like atmosphere. This truly is a healing environment.

My involvement with Family House takes me into the world of patient experience and access to care – two things of great importance. I think and care about the role of design in the creation of healing spaces; the role of sustainability in the development of new hospitals; and the impact all of that has on the employees of the health system and the care they deliver. As more and more seriously ill people receive sophisticated treatment on an outpatient basis, the need for facilities like Family House will only increase. A place like Family House takes so much stress off of the family and allows them to connect with other families facing similar challenges.

My father spent his entire career working in public television. Late in life he told me that he considered himself an educator first, and then a broadcaster. That provided important insight into his values and motivations. He could not have been the educator that he imagined himself to be without first becoming a broadcaster. I would say the same is true for me: My expertise in marketing has afforded me this opportunity to enjoy a career in healthcare at this incredible time of transformation. It is a pleasure to participate in that transformation – even if my part if limited to healthcare marketing reform!

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Screen Shot 2014-04-16 at 4.18.30 PMWe had an amazing Healthcare Leadership Twitter Chat (#HCLDR) on Tuesday evening. The discussion was around the benefits of creating true healing environments. We also examined many different ideas about what elements go into creating a healing environment: art, music, quiet, light, hand hygiene, listening, physician-patient interaction, etc. I was so taken with the discussion, and believe the topic is of such importance, that I decided to use Storify to curate the conversation. Below is the link to my Storify of the “Healing Environments” Twitter Chat.

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Creating safe, healing environments is one of the huge opportunities facing healthcare. That’s what the CleanMed Conference is all about. CleanMed is the premier conference on environmental sustainability for the health care sector. The conference attracts leaders and key decision makers from across the industry, convening health care professionals, university researchers, designers of professional buildings, and vendors of cleaner and safer products and services. The conference is being held April 24 – 26, 2013 in Boston, Massachusetts.

I’ve long been an advocate of creating “healthy hospitals” for patients, visitors and hospital employees. I’ve presented at conferences on the green movement in healthcare and have written several articles on the subject (“Healthcare’s Green Initiative: The Healthy Hospital Movement,” Alternative Health Journal, August 2009; “The Surprise Ingredient: Healthy Food Programs in Hospitals,” co-authored with Mark Shelley of Lexington Medical Center, Alternative Health Journal, November 2009).

featured_speakers 2Featured speakers will include Don Berwick, Bill McKibben, and Gary Gottlieb, MD. Additionally, CleanMed 2013 will include more than 50 session on topics ranging from healthy food in hospitals to the use of safer materials and chemicals to sustainability and waste management. These are issues we think about regularly at my firm. Not only are many of our hospital clients developing healthier environments, but one of my firm’s non-hospital clients, Daniels International, is the world’s largest provider of reusable systems for sharps disposal and a leader in the medical waste disposal industry. They work to make healthcare safer for those who work in the field while reducing the amount of waste that hospitals put into landfills. So CleanMed is something the people on my team are very passionate about.

If you’re interested in attending CleanMed 2103, or just want more information, go to http://www.cleanmed.org/2013/program/default.php.

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Screen Shot 2013-03-09 at 7.38.53 PMAmy Cueva, founder and health care principal for experience design firm Mad*Pow, wants to improve health care through the application of design. Her company sponsors a one-day conference in Boston, Healthcare Experience Design (HxD); this year’s edition takes place March 25 at the Westin Boston Waterfront. Boston, MA.

The Healthcare Experience Design Conference (HxD 2013) explores the overlap of healthcare and design – an area of interest of mine.  Speakers will discuss how human centered design and design thinking can improve the quality of health service delivery and digital interactions, helping all of us achieve better health. HxD has a decidedly health IT focus, as well as a patient engagement strategies segment. Jamie Heywood, co-founder of PatientsLikeMe.com, will headline this year’s HxD, as will Walking Gallery painter Regina Holliday. In this podcast, we sat down with Cueva and asked her what health care providers’ IT leadership can expect out of the conference.

Here’s how HxD co-founder, Amy Cueva, describes the conference:

“The theme of HxD 2013 is well-being as the foundation for health. Speakers will discuss how life–the messy stuff, the real stuff–can either support or interfere with our ability to care for ourselves and our families. We’ll ask: How does life management, stress management, relationships, emotions, sleep, and other factors affect our health? How can this thinking be woven into our solutions? What is our role in helping people achieve a fuller sense of well-being?

At HxD 2013, we’ll explore behavior change, public health and health literacy, care experiences, managing chronic conditions, design innovation, research and design methods, and case studies. The voice of the patient will be loud and clear – designers who have battled disease will share how it’s changed the way they approach their work. You’ll even have the chance to tell your own patient story.”

Here’s the list of speakers for this year’s conference (click on the image to enlarge it):

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For more information about the conference, go to http://www.healthcareexperiencedesign.com.

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As more healthcare firms apply environmental sustainability to their daily operations (and consumers embrace the values of sustainability), the marketing of those achievements is becoming more relevant. This includes entering awards competitions that recognize the green efforts of healthcare organizations. Sponsored by Strategic Sustainability Consulting, Healthcare insight, and MD News, the GreenCare Awards is America’s leading recognition program for green initiatives in health care.

Here’s how they describe the awards on the GreenCare website:

“The GreenCare Awards annually highlights the nation’s leading hospitals, healthcare systems, and physician practices committed not only to caring for patients, but also to protecting the planet. By achieving excellence in environmentally friendly health care, GreenCare organizations are advancing the practice of medicine and improving the quality of patient care—now and for future generations.

From recycling and reducing waste to community education and LEED Certification®, recipients of the annual GreenCare Award are America’s healthcare organizations committed to environmental sustainability and stewardship of our planet’s natural resources.”

To enter the GreenCare Awards, go to http://greencareawards.com/apply.

Post by Dan Dunlop, The Healthcare Marketer

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