Hospitality Touches in Healthcare

Healthcare Design & Hospitality Culture

Healthcare facilities of all types are coming to recognize the impact of design on patient and staff satisfaction. Design influences not only the physical well-being of users but also their emotional well-being. It brings value to a healing environment and can facilitate the kind of care an organization strives to deliver. With this focus on satisfaction and experience has come a shift to the view of patients as customers, and healthcare providers are making people feel that they are a priority by incorporating practices from the hospitality industry. One of the most important lessons the hospitality industry offers to healthcare providers is to create a setting that meets or exceeds customer needs for safety, security, support, and physical and psychological comfort (Ford, 2000). Setting is important to service: a well-presented environment reinforces excellent care, but an ill-presented environment can detract from excellent care. A well-designed environment incorporating ideas from the hospitality industry can also help enhance the culture of an organization by reinforcing employee pride, delivering a safe, dignified environment that also meets their needs (Hollis & Verma, 2015, p. 10).
The visual environment of a facility is critical, whether a new structure or an existing one. With many healthcare providers functioning in aging facilities, the creation of a hospitable environment through both experience and decor can mitigate negative factors arising from an environment designed in earlier eras with different attitudes and approaches to healthcare that “were neither necessarily healing for patients nor supportive of employees” (Hollis & Verma, 2015, p. 10). Attractive decor contributes significantly to hospitality and has been defined in different ways, with meanings ranging from home-like to high-end. However, one attribute of a space consistently identified as contributing hospitality is artwork. In their discussion of the concept of hospitality healthscapes, Courtney Suess and Makarand Mody note that artwork is a hotel-like attribute that has been shown to impact patient healing and well-being. In the proceedings of the Cornell Hospitality Roundtable exploring the intersections of hospitality and healthcare, it was observed that artwork can improve patient experience by giving people something to see and engage with as they move through a facility and a grand style isn’t necessary to create a hospitable environment (Hollis & Verma, 2015, p. 11).

Hospitals, Hospitality & Art

It’s often pointed out that the words hospital and hospitality have the same Latin root in hospes, which interestingly means both guest and host. The complementary and interactive character of host and guest relations were identified by Hepple, Kipps, and Thomson in their 1990 evaluation of the applicability of hospitality to the experience of hospital patients. As King points out, hospitality is a process in which arrival, departure, and all that comes in-between are concomitant with particular social rituals and interactions that mark and shape the service transaction (King, 1995, p. 11). In hospitals, the customer-centered approach derived from hospitality principles “begins when patients are welcomed into the lobby and greeted in the same way as they would be at a luxury hotel” (Negrea, 2018, p. 8). Like in a hotel where the lobby is designed to make an impression on visitors, the arrival and public spaces of a hospital setting can support and reinforce these intangible characteristics of hospitality. In an evaluation of the psychosocial impact of indoor public spaces, such as the lobby, in healthcare settings, Lacanna et al. (2019) identified social interaction as one of the most important parameters for user psychosocial well-being, the other being wayfinding. In hospital public spaces, social interactions, visual quality, space readability, and orientation contribute to well-being and positive experiences.
Lacanna et al. note the importance of landmarks as aspects of the visual quality and imageability of an architectural space. Landmarks are “architectonical/artistic elements that, with their level of aesthetic relevance and dimensional scale, play a decisive role in creating the identity of the place where they are located” (Lacanna et al., 2019, p. 20).  Most often works of art, the study identifies four types of landmarks: dominant, positive, neutral, and negative.  Dominant landmarks, typically executed on an oversized scale with stimulating aesthetic impact, give character to the place where they are located and play a key role in place identification and user perception by enhancing space readability, wayfinding, and contributing to positive and memorable experiences. More modest in scale but still with high aesthetic value, positive landmarks serve the same purpose as dominant landmarks. Neutral landmarks are those that do not make a strong impact in the area in which they are located, with little contribution to the identification of the surrounding area; and negative landmarks are those almost insignificant to user experience and readability of the space due to their location or lack of aesthetic impact.

Curated Collections: Inspiration for Hospital Lobbies & Public Spaces

Where space and budget allow, purchasing or commissioning original artwork, such as sculptures, for public spaces is an excellent option. If the budget doesn’t allow for this, works of art can be reproduced at monumental and large scales for aesthetic impact; strategically placed as dominant and positive landmarks in dialogue with the surrounding space to enhance readability, wayfinding, and positive experience. Artwork in public spaces can be in a variety of media and modes of representation, from realism to abstraction; and it can introduce and establish a cohesive theme that is carried throughout the facility. Marking a transition into the hospital space, artwork can be welcoming and inclusive, communicating values, identity, and commitment to care in a symbolic or iconic way. It can also reinforce community engagement and relationships by featuring the work of local artists or images that create a bridge between the interior and familiar sights and associations from the surrounding environs.
These curated collections aim to spark ideas about art in hospital lobbies and other public spaces. The collection for hospital lobbies features works of art that can create an impact not only through their visual character but also by the possibility of their complementing architectural features in dynamic ways, whether through movement, texture, or symbolic significance. The collection focusing on Seattle also emphasizes these capacities of artwork in the environment, while playing upon ways that images, associations, and colors of the city can be incorporated into public spaces to establish an interrelationship with the rich urban and natural environs. Art supporting hospitality in a healthcare environment highlights its concern with communication and its social and cultural function. Yet, no matter how high-end or aesthetically impactful, without care, the communicative and enriching nature of artwork will fall flat.
Art for Lobbies
Healthcare: Seattle


  • Ford, E.W. (2000) ‘Creating a healing environment: the importance of the service setting in the new consumer-oriented healthcare system,’ Journal of Healthcare Management 45(2), p91-106.
  • Hepple, J. et al. (1990) ‘The concept of hospitality and an evaluation of its applicability to the experience of hospital patients,’ International Journal of Hospitality Management, 9 (4), p305-318.
  • Hollis, B., & Verma, R. (2015). The intersection of hospitality and healthcare: Exploring common areas of service quality, human resources, and marketing [Electronic article]. Cornell Hospitality Roundtable Proceedings, 4(2), p6-15.
  • King, C. A. (1995) ‘What is hospitality?’ International Journal of Hospitality Management 14(3-4), p219-234.
  • Lacanna, G. et al. (2019) ‘Evaluating the Psychosocial Impact of Indoor Public Spaces in Complex Healthcare Settings’, HERD: Health Environments Research & Design Journal, 12(3), p11–30.
  • Negrea, S. (2018). Patient experience Rx: Healing the whole human (Insights from the 2018 CIHF MiniSymposium). Healthy Futures, 3(1), p1-16.
  • Suess, C. and Mody, M. (2017) ‘Hospitality healthscapes: A conjoint analysis approach to understanding patient responses to hotel-like hospital rooms,’ International Journal of Hospitality Management, 17, p59-72.
  • Wu, Z., Robson, S., Hollis, B. (2013) ‘The Application of Hospitality Elements in Hospitals,’ Journal of Healthcare Management (58)1, p47-62.
  • Zborowsky, T. (2014) ‘The Legacy of Florence Nightingale’s Environmental Theory: Nursing Research Focusing on the Impact of Healthcare Environments’, HERD: Health Environments Research & Design Journal, 7(4), p19–34.
Jeelan Bilal-Gore, Director of Art