On May 7th, the Design Museum Boston held a panel discussion on the current and future state of healthcare design as part of their UNITE series. The panel, comprised of professionals working both inside and outside of healthcare institutions, discussed how the design of healthcare environments can improve the quality of the patient, family and staff experience. The panelists were Jessica Finch, Art Program Manager at Boston Children’s Hospital; Lee Moreau, Principal at Continuum; and David Burson, Senior Project Manager at Partner’s Healthcare. The following were the key themes of the evening’s panel.
“Look Deeply and Listen”
The importance of listening to the voice of the patient during the hospital design process became a central topic of the discussion. All agreed that listening to the patient’s experiences and using design as an advocate for patients is critical in improving healthcare spaces. Adaptability of spaces for specific needs, decreasing a patient’s sense of isolation and providing means for direct interaction with the physical environment were some of the key touch points that the panelists outlined. Jessica Finch noted that the inpatient rooms at the Boston Children’s Hospital Mandell Building provide patients with interactive, digital, art display boards at the room footwalls; these boards allow patients to shape their treatment experience by giving them control over the atmosphere of their room.
Boston Children’s Hospital, Mandell Building
Healthcare Environments of the Future
The discussion also covered a wide array of topics that looked at how the insurance landscape, the ever-shifting sands of technology and the emergence of retail outposts are impacting the future of where and how patients will receive services. The panelists were asked about the potential role of designers within the expanding video outpatient visit model and the replacement of assisted living facilities with community-based adult services. In the case of the community-based services model, it was stressed that the designers should assert a role in ensuring that home care environments are safe for elderly living and care.
The release of the Apple Watch’s seemingly overwhelming abundance of health-related apps may also provide an opportunity to improve the patient’s environment. The apps can track and display a patient’s health and movements in real time within the hospital, thereby lessening the depersonalization of a treatment visit.
Promoting dignity within the healthcare environment also emerged as a key driver for the consideration of future healthcare environments. Reinforcing community by decreasing scenarios where patients feel isolated (e.g. allowing pediatric patients to play video games with the patient in the next room) can improve the patient’s level of comfort during care. Additionally, maintaining eye contact with patients during examinations rather than turning away towards a computer screen can be remedied through thoughtful room design. Decentralizing nursing within patient units rather than a monolithic, intimidating nurses’ station can also have a large impact on patient perception.
Future healthcare environments will continue to be influenced by a multitude of factors that are beyond the designer’s control. The UNITE panel on Healthcare Environments reminded the evening’s attendees that the primary focus must always be on the improvement of the spaces for the people who occupy those spaces.
Penn State Health Milton S. Hershey Medical Center, Children’s Hospital
The Design Museum Boston UNITE on Healthcare Environments panel discussion was held at Mad*Pow. The moderator was Jonathan Podolsky, Experience Strategy Director at Mad*Pow.
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