NAOMI SACHS: Starting to have this conversation about hospitality and the patient experience and what we can do for not just the patient, but also the visitor, the family members, the friends, and also the staff. And of course, that's something that hospitality and other industries have been doing really well for a long time. And so we can learn a lot from that. And with my experience as landscape-- for the landscape architecture background, I think one of the first things that people experience when they enter the health care environment is the landscape.
And so instead of just talking about the one healing garden that's in the central courtyard, starting to think about the landscape as a good experience from the moment someone crosses the property line or even sees the hospital facility or the health care facility from a distance, that that experience from the minute they cross the property line all the way through is the landscape is a reassurance, and it's a cue, I will be taken care of. I am entering a place of health and healing.
What we've seen historically over the past, say, 70 years, really, when hospitals-- and when I say hospitals, I really mean health care facilities in general-- we were looking at a pathogenic model. So we are looking at a model where people were treating the disease. They were treating what was broken and what needed to be fixed. And it was really about the doctor and what the doctor needed.
And the hospital had to be sanitary. And it really was a sterile environment. And it wasn't about the patient except for getting the patient well. And it was very much, also, about medicine. And so we kind of lost touch with nature, with the outdoor environment. And it was all about what pharmaceutical drugs and what scalpel could do. And that divorce between the environment and the care of the patient, I think, is starting to come back around.
I've had many experiences in hospitality environments where the landscape feels restorative. Generally, the more naturalistic, the better, where I'm just out for a walk on the beach, but I've been able to get to the beach easily because there's signage to the beach and because the beach is visible from almost everywhere in the hotel. And it's incorporated into their branding.
So immediately, I know I'm going to be going to this place where there's a beach. And I can go walk in there. Or I know that there is a beautiful garden that I'm going to go and watch the waterfall and walk along the pathways because that's part of their whole brand. I saw that on the website. I see it on their brochures. They tell me at the guest entrance-- why don't you go take a walk?
And so it's a lot more incorporated. And I think that that's something that we're starting to learn in health care is how to incorporate that experience and how much the landscape can reassure people and be a part of their positive experience the whole way through.
With the real estate industry, you know, we know that people will pay up to 25% more for rooms with views, for apartments and condominiums with views and easy access to rooftop gardens or Central Park right outside the door. And I think that's something that health care is learning, too, that people will either pay more or will be more satisfied if they have access to those-- what we used to call amenities and what we're now-- are learning that are an essential part of the environment of care.
My dissertation research focuses on creating a standardized evaluation toolkit, which can be used for evaluating gardens in health care facilities. It can also be used as a research tool and as a design tool. So for example, one of the tools is an audit, where people go and look at this rated checklist to see-- are there sufficient and comfortable seats in the garden? Is the garden easy to access? Are the doors unlocked? Is there sufficient shade and a choice of sun or shade?
So some of these are really critical for health and well-being. And some are more about the patient experience and creating a comfortable, pleasant, and, of course, safe environment. And this is important because a lot of health care facilities-- unfortunately, we're at this point where they say, oh, we're creating-- you know, we have a healing garden. But you go outside and you just want to cry because these spaces are really-- maybe there's a plant and a bench. But it's really not the kind of outdoor space that people need to have that sense of restoration.
And so with the toolkit, it's also a way for designers to look at, for example, that checklist and say, oh, yeah, we need comfortable seating. And we need to have shade before the garden gets built and then before the evaluation can happen.
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Naomi Sachs, Founding Director, Therapeutic Landscapes Network, was interviewed during the Cornell Hospitality, Health and Design Symposium, "In Search of a Healthy Future" on October 10, 2016.