The Non-Hospital: Healthcare Design Goes Retail

A century ago, “the customer is always right” became the motto for success in the high competitive retail market. In today’s similarly competitive healthcare environment, providers are adopting that same customer-centric approach, according to Rob Chartier in Health Facilities Management. Many hospitals and clinics are redesigning themselves to create a total customer experience, in the same way retailers do.

Other healthcare providers have opted to find a place in existing retail settings. Sarah Bader analyzes how consumers can be encouraged to utilize healthcare services in non-tradition settings. She recommends a number of retail design techniques which healthcare providers can use:

  1. Be accessible – Walgreen’s, a pioneer in retail health care, creates an inviting environment with large, bright windows and doorways, and encourages pharmacists to mingle with shoppers.
  2. Be specific – Retail is not a one-size-fits-all business. With market-specific services and designs, health care facilities can attract niche buyers.
  3. Be clear – Spaces that encourage communication result in better health care outcomes, just as they result in happier retail customers.
  4. Be nimble and flexible – Retailers are constantly adjusting store layouts to meet changes in consumer tastes. Health care designers, too, can incorporate flexibility into treatment facilities.
  5. Be virtual – Consumers are shopping at their favorite retailers’ online stores. Health care providers can leverage their online presence in the same way retailers do.
  6. Be visible – Brand identity is vital. Retail stores like Target and Nike are unmistakable because their brand identity is carried throughout the stores’ design. Likewise, retail health care can make use of signage and spatial design to establish a brand look-and-feel.

This new approach to healthcare delivery requires designers to rethink the entire healthcare environment, particularly secure storage of patient records and prescription drugs. Retail settings encourage free access, but healthcare demands patient privacy and safety. It’s the kind of design challenge that calls for a top-tier storage consultant.


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