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Building patient-centeredness: Hospital design as an interpretive act


  • Bromley, Elizabeth


Hospital designs reflect the sociocultural, economic, professional, and aesthetic priorities prevalent at a given time. As such, hospital buildings concretize assumptions about illness, care and healing, patienthood, and medical providers’ roles. Trends in hospital design have been attributed to the increasing influence of consumerism on healthcare, the influx of business-oriented managers, and technological changes. This paper describes the impact of the concept of patient-centeredness on the design of a new hospital in the USA. Data come from 35 interviews with planners, administrators, and designers of the new hospital, as well as from public documents about the hospital design. Thematic content analysis was used to identify salient design principles and intents. For these designers, administrators, and planners, an interpretation of patient-centeredness served as a heuristic, guiding the most basic decisions about space, people, and processes in the hospital. I detail the particular interpretation of patient-centeredness used to build and manage the new hospital space and the roles and responsibilities of providers working within it. Three strategies were central to the implementation of patient-centeredness: an onstage/offstage layout; a concierge approach to patients; and the scripting of communication. I discuss that this interpretation of patient-centeredness may challenge medical professionals’ roles, may construct medical care as a product that should sate the patient’s desire, and may distance patients from the realities of medical care. By describing the ways in which hospital designs reflect and reinforce contemporary concepts of patienthood and caring, this paper raises questions about the implementation of patient-centeredness that deserve further empirical study by medical social scientists.

Suggested Citation

  • Bromley, Elizabeth, 2012. "Building patient-centeredness: Hospital design as an interpretive act," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 75(6), pages 1057-1066.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:socmed:v:75:y:2012:i:6:p:1057-1066
    DOI: 10.1016/j.socscimed.2012.04.037

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    Cited by:

    1. Maria de Fátima Castro & Ricardo Mateus & Francisco Serôdio & Luís Bragança, 2015. "Development of Benchmarks for Operating Costs and Resources Consumption to be Used in Healthcare Building Sustainability Assessment Methods," Sustainability, MDPI, Open Access Journal, vol. 7(10), pages 1-27, September.
    2. Liberati, Elisa Giulia & Gorli, Mara & Moja, Lorenzo & Galuppo, Laura & Ripamonti, Silvio & Scaratti, Giuseppe, 2015. "Exploring the practice of patient centered care: The role of ethnography and reflexivity," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 133(C), pages 45-52.


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