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Winners of America's 20 Most Beautiful Hospitals competition react

Soliant Health, a specialty healthcare staffing provider and part of Adecco Group, announced its list of America’s 20 Most Beautiful Hospitals last week.

After nearly 170,000 votes on, Martha Jefferson Hospital of Charlottesville, Va., was awarded the top honor in the fourth-annual contest. Martha Jefferson Hospital received 43, 217 votes in the poll.

[See also: America's 20 Most Beautiful Hospitals named for 2012]

“The award is flattering and humbling at the same time to be in the same category with so many beautiful hospitals; and to be number one is a testament to our team that really worked hard on a design that made our patients comfortable and a place our staff enjoys working at,” said Ron Cottrell, vice president of planning at Martha Jefferson Hospital. “I think the biggest thing we wanted to accomplish in our design was to make it a place people feel comfortable in. We want people to feel secure when they come to our hospital. It’s always been about the staff as well, and if the surroundings can complement our great staff, it can lessen anxiety, keep people more comfortable, and it can make someone’s stay a lot better.”

Among the features that helped the hospital secure the win are a pitched roof and extensive gardens to promote a feeling of home, designer slate elevator bays, decorative frosted glass windows to allow light in as much as possible while maintaining privacy and hand-crafted tile designed specifically for each patient bathroom.

"Mounting clinical evidence suggests that better aesthetics can improve patients’ health - not to mention their morale - specifically in the patient rooms," Tera Tuten, Soliant's operations director, told Healthcare Finance News. "For example, big windows with natural light, a warm room that feels like home, make the patients feel less stressed and therefore recover faster."

Elizabeth Wholihan, director of marketing and public relations at Eisenhower Medical Center in Rancho Mirage, Calif., the hospital that was awarded the number two distinction in the contest with 39,071 votes, said part of the hospital’s philosophy has always been to provide patient care in a calm, healing environment.

[See also: America's 20 Most Beautiful Hospitals named]

“We’ve had the commitment to a healing environment for many years and every project we do has had that as part of its underlying process. We wanted to make sure there was natural light and inviting color and space to make people feel at ease,” she said. “Being in the hospital can be emotional and providing an environment that is welcoming is very important to their healing.”

Ralph Rodriguez, manager of facility aesthetics at Miami Children’s Hospital, agreed and added that in addition to creating a comfortable environment for patients, Miami’s Children’s design concept also had the patients’ families in mind as well. Miami Children’s Hospital came in fourth place in the contest.

“It’s about treating the family, not just the patient,” he said. “I think we stayed away from the sterile hospital environment. We’re in the middle of a residential community and our look and feel really reflects the feel of the community. Family members can walk around and decompress in our surrounding gardens.”

Creating and designing a beautiful hospital can also be financially beneficial to an organization in the long run as well, said Ellen Wilhoit, president and CEO at LeConte Medical Center in Sevierville, Tenn., which was awarded third place in the contest.

“I think as far as getting a return on investment goes (for putting in the extra effort and funds to create a beautiful hospital), we have a nice environment here so when you look at recruiting clinical staff and physicians to provide the next level of care, that has made an impact on recruiting them and also being able to attract your mogul market instead of them going to the larger cities and hospitals. It truly has shown an improvement in growth and volume here,” she said.

Gail Warner, vice president of strategic planning at Elmhurst Memorial Healthcare in Elmhurst, Ill., said because her facility was rebuilt a year ago to replace an aging facility, she was able to build a more efficient, and therefore, more cost-effective building, in addition to keeping its aesthetics in mind as well. Elmhurst Memorial Healthcare came in fifth place in the contest.

“The old building was old and inefficient and was not in the position for growth heading into the future,” she said. “This building is contemporary and positioned for growth. We’d much rather face the uncertain healthcare future in the building than our old one.”

Overall, Soliant was surprised by the competitive nature of this year's competition, said Tuten.

"We were very surprised at how competitive the hospitals were to make the list this year," she said. "It was really exciting this year. I even had several hospitals tell me how fun the contest was for them especially engaging with their staff, patients and community, which makes us excited.

“Being on our list is our way of saying thank you for not only improving the lives of patients but the lives of the all the people that work in the hospital, which are the people we staff every day in hospitals across the country," she added.