Health & Wellness

The Power of Relationship-Based Design in Transforming Healthcare Experiences


The Power of Relationship-Based Design in Transforming Healthcare Experiences

Going beyond food, drink, and accommodation to deliver safe, comfortable, and inclusive spaces.

Today’s healthcare organisations face mounting challenges attracting and retaining patients and staff. To stay competitive and enhance experiences, many providers are turning to hospitality models – but what does hospitality actually mean in a healthcare context?

At its core, hospitality is about relationships – welcoming, caring for, and valuing people. As Albert Calet, Head of Healthcare MEA at MillerKnoll explained, “It’s far more than amenities and services.” Our decades of research reveal that implementing a hospitality mindset rooted in caring relationships has immense power to uplift healthcare experiences for both patients and staff. 

Defining Relationship-Based Hospitality in Healthcare

Hospitality’s role as a cornerstone of human civilisation is seen across history and cultures – welcoming strangers, providing sustenance and shelter, encouraging trust and compassion. In healthcare settings, the “hosting” duties shift fluidly between the organisation, staff, patients, and families in a model of “nested hosting” that allows the hospitable role to pass between groups. 

As Calet emphasised, “True hospitality happens through person-to-person, needs-focused interactions. It provides comfort, fosters belonging, and nurtures connections.” Thoughtfully designed spaces that enhance feelings of safety, security and calm can profoundly impact experiences.

Key Dimensions for Uplifting Healthcare Experiences

Protection: Spaces that foster safety, security and calm uplift patients, visitors, and staff. Strategies like noise reduction, private rooms, and access to nature aid relaxation. 

Inclusion: Inclusive design fosters belonging for diverse populations via spaces honouring a multitude of traditions, needs and preferences. 

Community: Shared communal hubs nurture human connections vital to encourage compassion and uplift spirits. As Calet noted, “Aligning physical spaces, processes and culture to support caring relationships is critical.” 

A Differentiator in Today’s Healthcare Market

Cultivating this cultural mindset of authentic hospitality gives healthcare systems a competitive advantage attracting patients and staff. As stated by Calet, “Superficial hospitality falls short. To uplift experiences, it must be embedded across the organisation through thoughtful relationship-based design.” 

Optimising Specific Healthcare Settings for

Enhanced Experiences

At MillerKnoll, our decades of research inform how thoughtful design uplifts experiences across healthcare settings by focusing on relationships and care

 Welcoming Waiting Areas

Waiting often causes anxiety. Thoughtful waiting spaces providing calming views of nature, comfortable seating options, engaging activities and private nooks for quiet conversations or moments of repose help relax patients and visitors. Spaces designed with mindfulness of sightlines to registration and other key areas also aid in orientation and wayfinding, reducing stress.

Patient-Focused Exam Rooms

Exams can feel clinical and impersonal. Warm, welcoming exam rooms designed with patient comfort and dignity as priorities help put patients at ease. Strategies like heated exam tables, adjustable lighting, and space for families or support persons make a difference. Details communicating care like artwork, warm materials, and views to nature enhance comfort. 

Comforting Patient Rooms

Overnight hospital stays disrupt normal rhythms. Designed to balance medical needs with nurturing sanctuary, patient rooms focused on emotional and physical needs enhance healing and recovery. From views of nature and circadian lighting to minimal noisy disruptions and accommodations for family members, thoughtful details communicate care. Strategic layouts allowing clinicians clear sightlines to patients while preventing feelings of exposure also aid dignity. 


Uplifting Staff Spaces

Burnout threatens healthcare staff wellbeing. Yet quality spaces for renewal and connection are limited. Staff-focused spaces like lounges, quiet rooms, or outdoor seating areas allow colleagues to support one another during pressure-filled workdays, improving resilience. Spaces honouring staff contributions through artwork, celebrations, and amenities also communicate organisational commitment to nurturing a caring culture. 

Transforming Healthcare Through Relationship-Based Design

True hospitality is far more than aesthetic facades and superficial perks. By embedding an ethos of caring across spaces, processes, and culture, we can transform organisations to deliver uplifting environments focused on nurturing connections. Spaces designed to foster meaningful relationships allow healthcare systems to provide the very best care for patients and staff.

At MillerKnoll, we understand the importance of thoughtful relationship-based design to uplift experiences. From waiting areas, to exam rooms, to private care rooms, we can help you create inclusive, calming spaces focused on relationships and care, to transform your organisation and deliver true hospitality.

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