Dignity Health Builds Kindness and Compassion into 39 Existing Hospital Campuses

hello humankindness

Researchers have long held that the attitudes and emotions of those around us can affect our own moods and even our health. Think about the last time you received a service from someone who obviously wasn’t having a good day. Did his or her mood affect you negatively or were you able to turn that person’s day around? When you’re entering a health-care facility to undergo treatment for an injury or illness, it’s obvi- ous you’d want to be surrounded by compassion and positivity. But are there ways in which the facility itself can treat a patient kindly and ultimately improve health?

A branded “Hello” desk immediately greets patients and visitors upon entering the lobby from the exterior.

A branded “Hello” desk immediately greets patients and visitors upon entering the lobby from the exterior.

Representatives from San Francisco-based Dignity Health, which is a 21-state network of nearly 9,000 physicians; 56,000 employees; and more than 400 care centers, including hospitals, urgent and occupational care, imaging centers, home health and primary care clinics, recognize that it’s important to see patients as people first and communicate with them on a human scale. Administrators believe acknowledging people’s “personhood” actually has the power to heal. As such, Dignity Health created the Hello Humankindess campaign, which has become a platform from which the health-care system operates.

Jeff Land, Dignity Health’s vice president of Corporate Real Estate, explains his role in the campaign: “In the built environment, making hospitals more of a human experience and a human interaction is, in my view, a great deal about what patients see, what they feel, what they touch and what they hear. Those are all environmental factors that we can, to some degree, control or improve.”

Land and Dignity Health relied on groups of patients and their families to help create the Hello Humankindness experience. “We asked them about the experiences they had in our hospitals and what would have made it different? What would have made it better?” Land recalls. “We boiled those experiences down into five, overriding principles that we used during the design process of what we’re calling the Built Environment Improvement Program, or BEIP.”

The five BEIP principles have become design directives that link directly to patient needs in what Dignity Health calls its 16 touchpoints, places where people and experiences intersect: parking structures, patient rooms, lounges, lobbies and elevators, cafeterias, stairwells and corridors, and more. The BEIP principles are:

  • Welcome me as a guest.
  • Make me feel comfortable and comforted.
  • Help me navigate with ease.
  • See me as a person first.
  • Inspire my spirit to heal.

Welcome Me as a Guest

Areas of respite are designed to be a place to sit for a moment outside of the hospital.

Areas of respite are designed to be a place to sit for a moment outside of the hospital.


Patients must feel safe and acknowledged when they arrive at a Dignity Health facility. Land says this includes easily recognizing where to park and how to get into a facility. “You’re at a very stressful time,” he says. “Not knowing what door to use elevates stress, particularly with age. It’s hard for the elderly to navigate a place they’ve never been to before.”

However, instead of a barrage of demanding signs—“No Smoking”, “No Loitering”, “No Parking”—Land likes international symbols with a friendly, humorous tone: “We use the international symbol for ‘No Parking’ and underneath it, the sign will say, ‘There are better ways to meet a tow-truck driver’,” he chuckles.

In addition, Dignity Health has installed 180 solar-powered emergency phones in its parking lots. Land says these are especially convenient if patients drove themselves to the hospital but can’t make it to the door. Similarly, wheelchairs located in parking structures feature brightly colored orange flags and have been branded with slogans, like “Let us lend you some wheels”.

Throughout campuses, exterior lighting is being upgraded with LEDs to not only save energy and reduce maintenance but also to ensure appropriate lighting levels. Landscapes are connecting patients to nature through views from patient areas, healing gardens and places of respite. “These areas of respite are very small— room for a bench or two, a few plants, sometimes a little music,” Land explains. “Just having a place for someone to sit for a minute can make a big difference. Maybe it’s one of those stopping places when your loved one is in surgery and you just want a few moments.”

PHOTOS: Dignity Health

About the Author

Christina A. Koch
Christina A. Koch is editorial director and associate publisher of retrofit.

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