Healthcare design addresses a set of complex challenges brought by patient care. As the needs of patients and providers require many parameters, including safety, efficiency, and aesthetics, a strategic and patient-centered model becomes the norm in designing optimal and healing environments. Any healthcare that runs counter to these proves to not only inflict a fragmented system but overall affect the recovery process of patients, which stands as an evident reality is depressing and dehumanizing clinics and hospitals today. In response to this, many healthcare organizations strive to revolve around the spectrum of healthcare design to meet the patients’ and staff’s needs for safer and efficient facilities. By partnering with the architecture industry, the sector embarks on a meaningful change by primarily taking health to the forefront of design. Let us inspect this emerging trend by exploring healthcare design.

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Contemporary Healthcare Design_©Virtual Skylights | Installations | Photos | Sky Factory https://www.skyfactory.com/portfolio/?p=SutterRoseville_tn

Design Thinking 

As healthcare drives its focus on patient-centered design, ‘design thinking’ rises to be the leading approach used toward the improved design of spaces. This creative, human-centered problem-solving approach defies the traditional methodologies by its comprehensive efforts to understand the patients and their experiences before formulating solutions. Through this kind of thinking, refining and testing of ideas often occur with the full involvement of patients. Hospitals versed in this would allocate weeks to months studying the patients its effects. Qualitative research methods would also be tailored to conclude an understanding of people’s experiences and define the real problem. This has been applied at the department of obstetrics and gynecology of Mayo Clinic and at Johns Hopkins Hospital to reimagine and improve their hospital care. Exploring healthcare design, the design thinking guarantees promising results to provide for patients through an increased empathy for users, enhanced and rapid prototyping, and continuous testing of solutions to problems at hand. 

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Design Thinking Process_© Myra Altman, PhD; Terry T.K. Huang, PhD, MPH, MBA; Jessica Y. Breland, PhD

Considerations 

There are a growing number of considerations that play a decisive role in the design of all healthcare facilities. Occupying an integral part, sustainable design features, including daylighting, energy and water conservation, non-toxic materials and finishes, and sustainable maintenance, need to be incorporated into any of this type of facility for a better user experience. In addition, more efficient workflow patterns and processes for staff urges to be integrated to deliver seamless hospital care. For the patients, considerations of stress and anxiety reduction, and increased patient safety are of primary importance to provide support for patients and promote their healing. Exploring healthcare design, user satisfaction, safety goals, and improved quality are the paramount considerations in designing for the said facilities. 

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Healthcare Facility_©Amy Frearson via Dezeen https://www.dezeen.com/author/amy-frearson/

Planning 

Configuration planning is especially relevant inside healthcare facilities. The adjacency, flow, and grouping of spaces must be in conjunction with the seamless movement of patients and staff. Achieving efficiency of spaces decreases anxiety while improving room management through space clustering makes it easier for staff to perform their tasks. In planning for the rooms, individual patient needs must be identified concerning privacy and treatment progress, thus promoting their well-being. Recreational areas and community spaces must be next to these spaces for easy user navigation and accessibility. Hidden corners are not also encouraged in designing for these structures to limit the chances of patients harming themselves. Exploring healthcare designs’ inflexibility exposed by the pandemic, convertibility also becomes an essential part of planning. Modular construction, multifunctional units, and convertible patient rooms provide malleable physical environments for this demand. 

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Hospital Spacious Lobby_©Mecanoo Architects Zaans Medical Centre | Mecanoo | Archello

‌Psychology of Design 

Comfortable and homelike environments are becoming the standard in healthcare settings. Aesthetic and comfort outweigh the long institutional feeling induced by the said facilities, fostering a community conducive to healing. The spaces for learning, socializing and working make the patient feel more like in a community than in a hospital. For the medical staff, spacious and well-equipped break rooms, cozy lounges, and outdoor spaces significantly contribute to their well-being. In addition, many designers turn to integrate unique design features to further achieve design psychology in spaces. This includes ample exposure to daylight and nature using outdoor spaces and floor-to-ceiling windows that offer greenery and a calming environment and promote natural light for mental health. Artworks with images of nature are also proven to make positive impacts on the mental and behavioral health of patients. Together with this, textures with comfortable furniture fabrics and finishes and soft furnishings render positive psychological impacts by making intimate and more dynamic spaces and introducing better acoustics. Exploring healthcare design, psychology imbued in spaces encourages a healing environment and speeds-up the treatment progress of its patients.

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Greenery inside hospitals_©Amy Frearson via Dezeen https://www.dezeen.com/author/amy-frearson/

Innovation and Technology 

Innovation and technology revolutionize healthcare systems. Through intelligent technologies, such as automated systems and sensors, hospital operators can rapidly respond to immediate needs, mainly the potential contagion, infection control, and patient monitoring. This results in intelligent hospitals that cater to the needs of the communities they serve effectively. Using technology also displays ideal outcomes as the means to become extremely helpful for remote monitoring, consultations, meetings, and therapy. In most hospitals, an improved treatment process is achieved by integrating online portals for appointments, seamless touchscreen displays for checking-in facilities, and conference rooms in the healthcare design.

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Technology in hospitals_©Future-ready healthcare | Gensler

Life and Spaces—Exploring Healthcare Design

Healthcare design responds to the needs of patient care through a variety of factors. Design thinking ensures empathetic spaces by rapid prototyping and continuous testing of solutions to problems. By taking user satisfaction, safety goals, and improved quality into considerations, designing for the said facilities becomes more responsive. Spatial efficiency decreases patient anxiety and increases staff performance through space clustering. Spaces permeated by psychology foster an environment conducive to healing. Technology speeds up workflow and leverages their means of the treatment process. In conclusion, through a systematic analysis of patients’ thinking, evaluation of different considerations, efficient planning, psychological designs, and technology integration, this kind of design introduces not only functional systems and programs but contributes to the increasing demands of a more optimum and restorative environment.

References

Harvard Business Review. (2017). Health Care Providers Can Use Design Thinking to Improve Patient Experiences. [online] Available at: https://hbr.org/2017/08/health-care-providers-can-use-design-thinking-to-improve-patient-experiences.

Taking Charge of Your Health & Wellbeing. (2016). What is Happening in Healthcare Settings Today? | Taking Charge of Your Health & Wellbeing. [online] Available at: https://www.takingcharge.csh.umn.edu/explore-healing-practices/healing-environment/what-happening-healthcare-settings-today

hmc_admin (2018). Behavioral Health Facility Design Guide: Purposeful Best Practices | Thought Leadership | HMC Architects. [online] HMC Architects. Available at: https://hmcarchitects.com/news/behavioral-health-facility-design-guide-purposeful-best-practices-2018-09-12/

 Gensler. (n.d.). Design Forecast: Healthcare. [online] Available at: https://www.gensler.com/df2021-healthcare  [Accessed 24 Sep. 2021].

www.architectmagazine.com. (n.d.). https://www.architectmagazine.com/design/the-art-and-science-of-healthcare-design.  [online] Available at: https://www.architectmagazine.com/design/the-art-and-science-of-healthcare-design.

Author

Russel is an essayist, neuroscience enthusiast and architecture student who stands amazed by how the distinct disciplines interweave into a harmonious whole if understood correctly. She strives to harness what is in store of these into functional built environments inspired by narratives and informed by neuroscience.

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