Contract - Designing for Health: The Cultural Differences of Latin American Countries and Their Desire for American Influence

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Designing for Health: The Cultural Differences of Latin American Countries and Their Desire for American Influence

19 July, 2010

-By Marlene M. Liriano


"Designing for Health" is a monthly, Web-exclusive series from healthcare interior design leaders at Perkins+Will that focuses on the issues, trends, challenges, and research involved in crafting today's healing environments.

For decades, Latin Americans have been coming to the United States for a variety of treatments from specialized procedures to plastic surgery. They came here to be treated by the top surgeons in the country, for the latest in medical research, and for the physical environments that were unlike any others back home. Mention to a friend or family member that you were traveling to South or Central America for any extended period of time, and their first reaction was one of worry and then inevitably, the question of what to do if you needed medical care while you were there.

Interestingly enough, the level of care years back, although quite elementary, was highly personal and hands on. Appointments were not needed to see a doctor, the wait was always manageable, and the results of any tests you had done during your visit were provided to you the same day. This personal and simplistic method of care is still very much the essence by which these cultures practice. Working in Miami, a city that is considered a hub of cultural diversity, provides me with a daily view of the dichotomy between American healthcare and the expectations of Latin American patients living or visiting in the United States. This hands-on and close-up view, along with having a highly diverse design team, helps me to better understand and listen intently to the needs of these cultures.

With international travel becoming more difficult and expensive, and the demand from consumers to provide a higher level of care, these countries are looking to invest in healthcare by building new hospitals, by joining major U.S. institutions to bring their brand to their countries, and by working with knowledgeable healthcare design firms to bring their expertise and planning process. These countries are aspiring to have facilities that are highly progressive, with the latest technical advances and with the best and most respected physicians on staff, many of whom are from the United States. They are bringing Western trends like larger patient rooms, intuitive wayfinding, daylighting, and hospitality-driven interiors with warmer and softer materials. And surprisingly to some, most Latin American countries are well advanced in their sustainable practices.

But even with the forward-thinking mindset of many facility directors, the design decisions and solutions often are culturally driven. El Hospital Universitario San Vicente de Paul is a 95-year-old staple in the heart of Medellin, Colombia. Currently planning a new 500,000-sq.-ft. hospital in Rio Negro, the client wanted a well-planned, American-influenced hospital with the latest state-of-the-art technology. With this project, the patient, family, and staff members were equally important. More often than not in South America you have families accompanying the patient, and they expect to stay with their family members through every step of their treatments. Waiting rooms were designed like large living rooms with comfortable amenities and distractions. Patient room family zones include space for more visitors and the capability of adding under-counter refrigerators for storage of snacks and beverages. Simplistic but intuitive wayfinding methods using distinctive colors, materials, and graphic symbols help family members navigate the layout.

The level of sophistication in the quality and use of materials and furnishings elevate this facility beyond any other in the country. “Designed as a modern, agile, and efficient facility, it will successfully meet the needs of our patients, families and visitors, today, and tomorrow,” hospital director Guiseppi Valencia, MD, says of the project. Regardless of all of the Western influences and advances designed into the facility, one cultural aspect that could not be lost in the translation was the personal, face-to-face attention to the patient and family members equally.

Marlene M. Liriano, IIDA, LEED®AP ID+C, is a principal at Perkins+Will. She serves as the interior design director and interior discipline leader for the Miami office. She can be reached at marlene.liriano@perkinswill.com

Past installments of "Designing for Health" include (click on title to access the full article):
Light and Its Role in Patient Safety
Research-Based Client Communication
An Urban Clinic—Connecting with the Community
Patient and Staff Safety in Behavioral Health Facilities
A Harmonious Companionship—Rejuvenating State-of-the-Art
Leading by Design – A Place to Flourish
Expanding the Definition of Sustainability to Include Chemical Awareness
10 Strategies to Move Your Client Toward Sustainability




Designing for Health: The Cultural Differences of Latin American Countries and Their Desire for American Influence

19 July, 2010


Condiseno and Perkins+Will

"Designing for Health" is a monthly, Web-exclusive series from healthcare interior design leaders at Perkins+Will that focuses on the issues, trends, challenges, and research involved in crafting today's healing environments.

For decades, Latin Americans have been coming to the United States for a variety of treatments from specialized procedures to plastic surgery. They came here to be treated by the top surgeons in the country, for the latest in medical research, and for the physical environments that were unlike any others back home. Mention to a friend or family member that you were traveling to South or Central America for any extended period of time, and their first reaction was one of worry and then inevitably, the question of what to do if you needed medical care while you were there.

Interestingly enough, the level of care years back, although quite elementary, was highly personal and hands on. Appointments were not needed to see a doctor, the wait was always manageable, and the results of any tests you had done during your visit were provided to you the same day. This personal and simplistic method of care is still very much the essence by which these cultures practice. Working in Miami, a city that is considered a hub of cultural diversity, provides me with a daily view of the dichotomy between American healthcare and the expectations of Latin American patients living or visiting in the United States. This hands-on and close-up view, along with having a highly diverse design team, helps me to better understand and listen intently to the needs of these cultures.

With international travel becoming more difficult and expensive, and the demand from consumers to provide a higher level of care, these countries are looking to invest in healthcare by building new hospitals, by joining major U.S. institutions to bring their brand to their countries, and by working with knowledgeable healthcare design firms to bring their expertise and planning process. These countries are aspiring to have facilities that are highly progressive, with the latest technical advances and with the best and most respected physicians on staff, many of whom are from the United States. They are bringing Western trends like larger patient rooms, intuitive wayfinding, daylighting, and hospitality-driven interiors with warmer and softer materials. And surprisingly to some, most Latin American countries are well advanced in their sustainable practices.

But even with the forward-thinking mindset of many facility directors, the design decisions and solutions often are culturally driven. El Hospital Universitario San Vicente de Paul is a 95-year-old staple in the heart of Medellin, Colombia. Currently planning a new 500,000-sq.-ft. hospital in Rio Negro, the client wanted a well-planned, American-influenced hospital with the latest state-of-the-art technology. With this project, the patient, family, and staff members were equally important. More often than not in South America you have families accompanying the patient, and they expect to stay with their family members through every step of their treatments. Waiting rooms were designed like large living rooms with comfortable amenities and distractions. Patient room family zones include space for more visitors and the capability of adding under-counter refrigerators for storage of snacks and beverages. Simplistic but intuitive wayfinding methods using distinctive colors, materials, and graphic symbols help family members navigate the layout.

The level of sophistication in the quality and use of materials and furnishings elevate this facility beyond any other in the country. “Designed as a modern, agile, and efficient facility, it will successfully meet the needs of our patients, families and visitors, today, and tomorrow,” hospital director Guiseppi Valencia, MD, says of the project. Regardless of all of the Western influences and advances designed into the facility, one cultural aspect that could not be lost in the translation was the personal, face-to-face attention to the patient and family members equally.

Marlene M. Liriano, IIDA, LEED®AP ID+C, is a principal at Perkins+Will. She serves as the interior design director and interior discipline leader for the Miami office. She can be reached at marlene.liriano@perkinswill.com

Past installments of "Designing for Health" include (click on title to access the full article):
Light and Its Role in Patient Safety
Research-Based Client Communication
An Urban Clinic—Connecting with the Community
Patient and Staff Safety in Behavioral Health Facilities
A Harmonious Companionship—Rejuvenating State-of-the-Art
Leading by Design – A Place to Flourish
Expanding the Definition of Sustainability to Include Chemical Awareness
10 Strategies to Move Your Client Toward Sustainability

 


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