2007 July 15 Sunday
People Expect Better Medical Care In Big Buildings

People judge medical facilities by what the outsides look like.

Curb appeal counts in real estate. But what about in medical care facilities? Do individuals judge the quality of care and their expected comfort level by how a building looks? They do, and medical practitioners should take note.

Connecticut College Professor of Psychology Ann Devlin asked 188 individuals to view 34 slides of the exteriors of medical buildings in Connecticut, Rhode Island and Michigan and judge the quality of care they would expect to receive and the comfort level they would expect to experience in these facilities. The buildings ranged from small outpatient office buildings to large medical centers.

The appearance of medical building exteriors is indeed related to these care and expected comfort judgments.

Findings clearly showed that while respondents made both positive and negative comments for every facility, the highest quality of care ratings were for large medical facilities - such as modern hospitals.

However, while respondents rated modern, large hospitals highly, they also expressed concern that the facilities could be intimidating, cold and impersonal.

"Large medical facilities should emphasize a stepped-down quality as much as possible, so what greets the patient is on a more human scale and of a familiar architecture," Devlin said.

The lowest ratings were given for small brick buildings. In between were the ratings for traditional, converted house-style facilities. But certain aspects of these small facilities can improve the impression they make. Respondents are likely to judge small facilities, such as small brick buildings or converted houses, more positively if the facilities are landscaped and well-maintained.

To be fair to the viewers of the photos, they had no other basis on which to judge the facilities. A larger facility must attract a larger number of customers. Why would so many people use it if was not better than the smaller ones?

The problem we have is that as users of medical care we don't have much in the way of useful information for judging medical care quality of doctors and hospitals.

Share |      By Randall Parker at 2007 July 15 02:42 PM  Economics Health

Half Sigma said at July 15, 2007 7:23 PM:

No, consumers have no good way of comparing quality of medical care.

BUT, I have noticed that doctors in more professional looking facilities tend to act in a more professional matter. The doctor in the big building gave me a prescription that was TYPEWRITTEN. The doctor in the crappy office gave me a prescription that the pharmacist couldn't read.

Mark said at July 15, 2007 8:02 PM:

So, you are arguing that the markets really are not perfectly efficient?

You are stepping into the dark side with that one. Ignore the empirical evidence and move back to the light side.

The markets are perfectly efficient regardless of what common sense and logic says. It's like a religion, just accept it and don't ask any questions.

If you see a dollar lying on the ground, do not pick it up. It is obviously a fake. If it were real efficient market theory says someone else would have already picked it up before you.

Questioning efficient market theory pretty much makes one a liberal, sort of like disagreeing with Bush.

Ned said at July 16, 2007 8:14 AM:

It's part of the placebo effect, and it's a huge part of medical care. Patients want to get better, and they want to believe that the doctors can make them better. Most patients are very poor judges of the quality of medical care they are receiving. For example, just ask patients recently discharged from the hospital about the quality of care they experienced - mostly, they'll base their evaluation on things like how the food was, how the room was, whether the nurses came promptly when called, whether they had to wait too long, etc. Yet these things have virtually nothing to do with quality of care. Critical concerns, such as whether the doctors and nurses actually knew what they were doing, whether prescribed medications were administered correctly, whether the laboratory and radiology departments were any good - things like this are opaque to most patients.

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