The Art of Healing

How better aesthetics in hospitals can make for happier—and healthier—patients by Virginia Postrel
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But why assume good medicine must come with bad design? Most hotel guests care more about reliable reservations than about crisp duvet covers. That doesn’t mean they want ugly rooms, though. Given the choice, they’ll go for the hotel that offers the best of both. When Starwood Hotels, which owns the Westin, Sheraton, and W brands, upgraded its rooms in the late 1990s, the rest of the hotel industry followed.

Under similar competitive pressure, medical facilities react the same way. When Baby Boomer women started choosing hotel-like birthing centers over hospital delivery rooms, hospitals quickly wised up. Now even rural hospitals offer well-designed labor-delivery-recovery suites. “People do shop, and they will actually sometimes change an obstetrician because they want a certain hospital experience,” says Malkin.

Much of the time, however, patients don’t know they can do better.

hospital decor