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Weill Cornell Medical Center

New York, NY

Opened in 2006, the 13-story, $230 million state-of-the-art ambulatory care and medical education building was designed to enhance the patient experience in every way. This facility offers a number of special amenities, including the Patient Welcome Resource Center, a spacious and comfortable area for patients and families to rest between appointments, as well as an array of medical information and assistance with medical billing and insurance questions. Consolidating key clinical programs in one location also makes it easier for patients to access services and care under one roof.


The new building, designed by Polshek Partnership and Ballinger, features architectural elements geared towards maximizing an atmosphere of wellness and comfort; reflecting pools and cascading water features; large picture windows which allow for natural light; and design features and colors that add to a soothing environment.


Together with Cornell University's Department of Environmental Design and Analysis, the Weill Cornell Medical College's Physician Organization is conducting several research projects in conjunction with the development of a new ambulatory care building and the introduction of its "Weill Cornell: We Care program" to enhance the patient experience.


The Physician Organization is the faculty practice of Weill Cornell's over 700 physician/teachers. Included in its studies are determination of how introducing an electronic medical record enhances physician to physician communication, and whether that enhances patient satisfaction; whether the introduction of patient educational information as part of the visit enhances patient satisfaction; and observational studies of existing practices to determine if there is a statistical relationship between the attractiveness of an environment and the patient's perceptions of various components of their visit.


Researchers conducted some preliminary studies in six existing ambulatory sites to examine how wait times affect perceived quality and anxiety. Key findings include:

  • The more attractive the environment, the higher the perceived quality and the lower the anxiety.
  • Patients underestimated longer (30+ minutes) actual wait times; and overestimated short (0-5 minutes) actual wait times.
  • No significant relationship between actual wait times and perceived quality or perceived anxiety.
  • Significant relationship between perceived wait times and perceived quality and perceived anxiety.

This was confirmed again in a second phase that evaluated one of the relocated ambulatory units in the new facility to one that did not move.



  • Becker, F., & Douglass, S. (2008). The Ecology of the Patient Visit: Physical Attractiveness, Waiting Times, and Perceived Quality of Care. The Journal of Ambulatory Care Management, 31(2), 128–141.
    Abstract: This study examined the relationship between the attractiveness of the physical environment of healthcare facilities and patient perceptions of quality, service, and waiting time through systematic observations and patient satisfaction surveys at 7 outpatient practices at Weill Cornell Medical Center. Findings indicate positive correlations between more attractive environments and higher levels of perceived quality, satisfaction, staff interaction, and reduction of patient anxiety. The comparison of actual observed time and patients’ perception of time showed that patients tend to overestimate shorter waiting times and underestimate longer waiting times in both the waiting area and the examination room. Further examinations of the way outpatient-practice environments impact patient and staff perceptions and how those perceptions impact behavior and medical outcomes are suggested.
  • Becker, F., Sweeney, B., & Parsons, K. (2008). Ambulatory Facility Design and Patients’ Perceptions of Healthcare Quality. HERD-HEALTH ENVIRONMENTS RESEARCH & DESIGN JOURNAL, 1(4), 35–54.
    Objective: This research examines whether the physical attractiveness of an outpatient practice influences patients' perceptions of healthcare quality, including patient and staff perceptions of the quality of staff-patient interaction.