Before the bottom fell out of the financial world in 2008-2009, the hospitality influence loomed large in the healthcare design industry, with a boom in spacious, multistory lobbies that would put many luxury hotel lobbies to shame, replete with winding stairs, large art installations, and the like.

For example, take a look at the picture on the left (click on the image to make it larger). Is it a hotel lobby or a hospital lobby? It's hard to tell, isn't it? (It's actually the interior of Hyatt Regency Hotel in Osaka, Japan, but you could absolutely be forgiven for thinking otherwise.)

I read this article on the HealthLeaders Media site recently and was struck by how rare it has been to see such opulence in the last 18 months or so. I would wager that financing (or rather the lack thereof) is a big reason for the luxury look dying down a bit in healthcare design, but I wonder if that isn't such a bad thing. The Cleveland Clinic — by nearly every measure about as successful a health system as there is in today's market — have taken an opposite stance, creating contemplative spaces in monochromatic colors to encourage private thoughts and inward reflection rather than providing (too many) distractions.

It will be interesting to watch moving forward, as the money starts to return, what will happen to the luxury hospital look. I'm sure certain affluent markets will still embrace the trend, but I wouldn't count on widespread implementation at this point. In the new outcomes-based healthcare reality coming around the corner, savvy owners will soon realize that it's better to sink resources in places that will improve health as opposed to wow passers-by. A more simplified elegance may be the new order of the day, but the idea of hospitality shouldn't go away entirely; just the opposite, in fact.

Consumers are still going to crave the aspects of the hospitality world that don't cost as much as a giant chandelier. Features like patient light controls and interactive televisions are very much hospitality inspired, and don't require nearly as large a donor check to install — and they might just lead to some better outcomes.