On Hospitals, Design and Service

I’ve spent the last week or so living at Fortis Hospital, Jaipur looking after my grandmother.

When I was around eight, we moved to Jaipur from Calcutta and came to live with my grandma. So, for all practical purposes, she brought me up. To cut a long story short, we’re close.

She’s eighty-three and this is her first visit to a hospital as a patient. She didn’t let the pneumonia, her age, or the ICU get in the way of making sure she had a great time (often at the expense of the nurses looking after her). She’s a lot better now and should be discharged tomorrow.

Spending so much time at the hospital got me thinking about how Fortis has used design in their service — the hospital positions itself as a place where patients are looked after in the friendliest way possible. I have to say, they’ve lived up to the posters they have scattered around the place by designing their service to reflect that positioning.

In a lot of ways they’ve done a better job than some of the hotels I’ve stayed at. Perhaps because everybody who works here has higher self-worth than many of the people who work at hotels.

There is something about looking after people that can bring out the best in a human being. My limited experience at some hospitals suggests that it can also bring out the worst. I guess the hospital is to be commended for putting in the time and effort to choose people who care, and then spend time and effort in designing processes that re-enforce what’s important.

A simple example: there’s a lady who’s come by every couple of days in a pink coat to check whether we’re being well taken care of. She makes it a point to first talk my grandma and then us. The priorities are clear. The pink coat is an interesting touch. Non medical staff who deal with quality of patient care wear pink coats. The non-medical guys in the lobby who deal with visitors, admissions etc wear black coats. The doctors wander around in green vests, pyjamas and white coats. Nursing staff wear blue. Everybody’s got their name stitched onto their coats/vests so you know who you’re talking to. It even tells you what they do:
Dr X

I don’t think this unique to Fortis — I’m sure most other hospitals that bleed insurers dry do the same, but it’s a good feeling.

I guess the best part of this experience — besides the fact that Granny’s better — is that we’ve been able to focus on her getting better without any hassles or headaches. The doctors and staff have been accessible and willing to answer questions and explain what’s going on.

And that is by design, which makes me very happy.