Planetree: VSD in hospitals.

Planetree is an organization that designed a complete healthcare plan for hospitals that incorporates all the values patients find important.

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Some designs are brilliant, or at least, they appear to be. We have all seen some ideas that looked absolutely stunning on paper, but they turned out not to fulfil their purpose at all. When brought into contact with the consumer, some innovations just do not display their full potential. This is why Value Sensitive Design was invented. Originally created for use in the ICT industry, VSD aims to include the value of customers as much as possible. This is why it is often applied to innovations that have high amounts of customer interaction. A good example of this are hospitals. For the only purpose of helping people get rid of an illness, thousands of human interactions take place here every day. This is why Planetree, and Planetree Netherlands in particular, has come up with a complete healthcare plan that aims to maximize customer satisfaction in health facilities by including many of the values that customers hold dear when being treated inside a hospital.

Planetree’s healthcare plan has three focus points. Better healthcare, healing environment and healthy organization. Distributed among these focus points are 12 components that show what people find important. One of these points for instance is number 3; excellent treatment and healthcare. This is, in my opinion, the most basic and most important need one can have inside a hospital. Therefore, it is important to include this in the healthcare plan. Furthermore they emphasise, among others, easy interaction with technology, satisfied and motivated employees, healthy foods and exercise and transparent patient files so patients can look into their own condition. By itself, these are all excellent points. However, sometimes they go a little too far.

In component 7, Architecture and interior complement health and healing, Planetree argues that the construction and layout of hospitals can positively influence a patient’s healing process. They want to reach this by placing flowing water, aquaria, kitchens, gardens and labyrinths in the health facilities. Then I ask myself, how are kitchens and labyrinths going to help people get better faster? On top of this, Planetree wants to remove desks. How are patients and their families going to get their information on diseases or directions inside a hospital if they can’t ask for them at a desk? Also, as complimentary healthcare, hospitals are expected to include rooms for spirituality, therapeutic contact, usage of aromas, acupuncture and pets.

I can understand that for minorities, these types of complimentary healthcare can be helpful, but if the partnered hospital is not being built from scratch, they have to go through great deals of trouble to incorporate all these features into their building. This is only feasible if the results weight off against the costs. Luckily, they do. Planetree gives an example of Griffin Hospital, which went from 83% customer satisfaction to 98% in ten years. This is an increase of 18% in customer satisfaction. Several studies also indicate that the Planetree model has a positive influence on financial figures for hospitals.

The Planetree model shows us that VSD is not only applicable in ICT. Using the values of customers is a very responsible way to innovate, and it pays off. Even though the process of VSD can be quite hard and costly, it will generally be beneficial to the innovation in the end. The Planetree example shows us that even for services instead of products the benefits will eventually outweigh the costs of innovating. Using values in the innovation process gives something of value in return.


Sources used:

Stone, S. (2008). A retrospective evaluation of the impact of the Planetree patient-centered model of care on inpatient quality outcomes. HERD: Health Environments Research & Design Journal, 1(4), 55-69.

Coulmont, M., Roy, C., & Dumas, L. (2013). Does the Planetree Patient-Centered Approach to Care Pay Off?: A Cost-Benefit Analysis. The health care manager, 32(1), 87-95.