Two major trends in healthcare delivery are leading architects to look to other design specialties and building typologies for inspiration and design strategies. The first of these is an increased focus on patient and family centered design. The second is the desire of healthcare providers to increase their competitive edge as efficiency and cost of healthcare delivery become increasingly important. These trends in healthcare design naturally lend themselves to precedents and design strategies that are used more frequently in hospitality, retail and community oriented designs.
As patient satisfaction becomes an increasingly important metric by which hospitals gauge their success, designers can look to hospitality design where customer satisfaction is of utmost importance. Hospitality spaces are often focused on comfort and stress relief, two conditions that are conducive to healing and offer amenities that make users feel relaxed and at ease.
Elements of hospitality design have already become standard practice in sectors of healthcare design. The rise of medical tourism and private VIP hospitals in Asia and the Middle East easily lend themselves to the incorporation of finishes, amenities and spaces that we would more typically associate with high-end hospitality architecture.
What is interesting about this trend of integrating design strategies learned from hospitality design into the healthcare environment is to observe how these trends begin to influence the design of inpatient environments on all levels, not just in private, high-end hospitals. This expansion of hospitality design trends into all levels of healthcare design can be attributed to more hospitals, and particularly community level hospitals, increasing the focus on patient and family centered design. Patient and family centered design not only has a basis in research for improving patient healing and communication with caregivers, it is also a way for hospitals to set themselves apart from competitors by providing environments for healing that are welcoming, comforting and relaxing.
Some trends in healthcare design that have their basis in hospitality design strategies are evident in patient room design amenities such as:
- Integrated spaces for family are separate from staff work areas and may even have some separation from patient spaces. In private VIP hospitals, these types of spaces can even be a large a separate en suite room for family and caregivers. By providing a separate space for family members, even if it is simply a nook within a patient room, family members feel less “in the way” of staff providing care, feel more welcome to stay and support patients for longer periods of time and give them a space to go when a patient needs quiet for sleep or care.
- Integrated technology that allows patient access to entertainment options as well as education and personal medical information. Patient entertainment systems are being expanded to integrate with nutritional programs that offer customized meals to meet specific patient needs, provide medical records and educational material for easy review with medical professionals and even personalization of patient rooms through artwork.
- Finishes that are less institutional and have a more “home” or hospitality-like quality continue as an increasing trend in healthcare designs that aim to make patients and families feel more at ease. Maintenance, durability and cleanability are, of course, key components to consider in this trend for healthcare spaces. A component of this trend are headwall systems that either conceal or cleanly organize services so that they reduce visual clutter in the patient room and foster a less institutional feel.
- Multiple lighting levels and configurations that allow customization of room atmosphere to support different functions are becoming more common in patient rooms and offer expanded options as lighting technologies become smaller and more energy efficient. Different lighting levels for different functions, such as exam, sleep and family use and even different colors for different times of day can allow staff and families to use rooms without disturbing the patient and can reinforce circadian rhythms which aid in healing.
As healthcare providers look to reduce costs and reach many newly insured patients under the Affordable Care Act, outpatient facilities that are integrated into existing retail outlets have the advantage of convenience for patients and cost efficiencies by decreasing dependence on expensive emergency department visits. For outpatient environments, healthcare designers increasingly look to retail environments for strategies of branding, wayfinding and convenience:
- Convenience is a driving force of the increasing integration of more outpatient care services directly into retail facilities. By incorporating services into environments where patients already go on a regular basis, healthcare providers are hoping to reach more patients and increase their competitive edge. This type of development impacts both the way that designers need to think about the design of the healthcare and retail spaces and how they might influence each other.
- An increasingly competitive healthcare market has led hospitals to consider branding more carefully to set themselves apart. Well-designed retail spaces demonstrate how branding, communication technology and wayfinding can be integrated to provide environments focused on ease of use and customer satisfaction. Retail designers have for many years carefully thought through every step of a consumer’s experience with a brand – from the first contact and communication, through every step of approaching, moving through and experiencing a retail environment. Healthcare designers can look to this type of step-by-step analysis of user experience to more carefully plan patient experiences in many healthcare settings. Just as in retail, the goal of this analysis is to improve customer (in this case patient) satisfaction, a metric that is growing increasingly important to healthcare providers.
Community and Wellness
The definition of healthcare is continuously expanding to include more and more services. Statistics show that younger generations are interested in more holistic definitions of health and want their healthcare providers to respond by implementing preventive care and wellness programs. Healthcare providers can think creatively about how they reach out to their communities and integrate programs that support wellness. Program typologies that are not usually considered within the realm of healthcare design could become increasingly important to hospitals that want to reach and support all members of their communities. Farmers markets that support nutritional education, recreational and sports facilities that are open to the public and also support rehabilitation and therapy, are just a few examples of the ways different building programs could begin to influence healthcare design.
Healthcare design relies on interdisciplinary expertise to achieve balance between complex requirements of infection control, building systems, staff, caregiver, family and patient needs. Architects and designers take on the role of integrating and synthesizing all of the needs of healthcare environments into spaces for healing. As patients increasingly demand a more holistic approach to health and wellness, and healthcare providers find the need to become more visible in their communities, and efficient and competitive in their markets, healthcare designers have the opportunity to look to disciplines within our own field, like hospitality, retail and community-centric design, for new ways to address these expanding needs.
Choi, Young-Seon and Sheilah J. Bosch. “Environmental Affordances: Designing for Family Presence and Involvement in Patient Care.” Health Environments Research & Design Journal, 6(4), pp. 53-75.
Silvis, Jennifer Kovacs. “Room for Improvement.” Healthcare Design Magazine November 2014: pp 41-60.
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