The future of healthcare design includes creating more warm, inviting and flexible spaces for patients and medical staff alike. While healthcare campuses, clinics, boutiques, and other medical facilities each have their own requirements, those common needs include:
- Greater flexibility and adaptability
- Technology-driven spaces
- Bringing the outdoors inside
- Addressing concierge healthcare needs
- Preventing infection spread
Flexible and Adaptable Spaces
While building new facilities from scratch might provide the ultimate best option—it’s also expensive. Because healthcare spaces require operational and physical flexibility, spaces equipped to handle multiple, similar functions increase use-per-square-foot efficiency and reduce costs. Whether it’s wheeled partitions in administrative departments to shell spaces in office buildings, flexible, adaptable design makes sense.
Modular storage systems install easily to hold a myriad of items, easily transforming a room from a patient examination space to an office. Well-planned shell spaces (or soft areas) that work as placeholders for future expansion upgrade quickly into hard spaces to accommodate more office space or additional patients and equipment. Prefabricated partitions also increase a space’s adaptability, breaking down easily to increase a room’s size or wheeling in quickly to add privacy or create triage space to treat more patients simultaneously.
As the heart and soul of nursing care, workstations enable collaboration, improve workflow, and increase proximity to patient rooms. While trends shifted away from centralized stations in the mid-2000s, studies have revealed mixed outcomes about the efficacy of decentralized stations. These stations were intended to reduce walking distance for nurses, locate nurses in closer proximity to the patients on their caseload, and take advantage of advanced health IT and electronic medical records (EMR). But many nurses report feelings of isolation in environments that rely more on decentralized nursing stations. Some studies indicate blending the two styles of nursing stations makes the most logistical sense.
Technology continues to advance at breakneck speed—and its use in healthcare facilities is limited only by the imaginations of those tasked with finding ways to incorporate it most beneficially.
Digital kiosks have streamlined patient check-ins, improving efficiency and patient experience, providing secure access, and promoting compliant accessibility. Telemedicine facilitates faster consults with experts across the globe. Mobile workstations enable instant access to patient records—and even instant testing, without having to move patients at all. More healthcare facilities have included charging stations in waiting rooms and throughout their buildings to allow patients, visitors, and staff to charge mobile devices.
Hospitals and healthcare systems have come to rely on artificial intelligence (AI) and virtual healthcare to improve patient care and streamline processes. Whether it’s helping facilities better manage their inventory or evaluate the effect of the environment on staff and patients, evolving technology enables a more refined operational efficiency.
This concept—the idea of promoting a greater connection between people and nature by designing buildings that bring nature indoors—offers physical, psychological, and emotional benefits similar to enjoying time outside, perhaps wandering through a park or meandering down a forest trail.
Dr. Edward O. Wilson, a psychologist, coined the term in the 1980s after he saw the increasing disconnect people felt as one result from increased urbanization. The World Health Organization (WHO) has stated that stress-related illnesses will become the largest contributors to disease by 2020. A greater connection to and reliability on technology often reduces that connection to nature, which leads to fewer opportunities to recharge mental and physical energy—two critical needs upon which our bodies depend, and which nature provides a balm for restoring.
Research has shown that incorporating natural elements directly or indirectly into built environments reduce heart and blood pressure levels and stress and increase creativity, productivity, and feelings of well-being. Studies show that recovering patients derive benefit from exposure to natural elements incorporated into a healthcare environment. Incorporating biophilia within hospitals has reduced post-operative recovery by 8.5% and pain medication use by 22%. An additional 95% of patients and families who connect with nature report lower stress levels, more positive thoughts, and better coping ability.
Whether it’s incorporating a fountain or indoor river, adding natural airflow and employing floor-to-ceiling windows and skylights to let in natural light, and even making space for an inside atrium, bringing the outside in creates a calming environment and positively effects everyone.
Concierge Healthcare Services
Concierge medicine is a relatively simple idea that’s based on a membership model. It can offer patients house calls, after-hours access to physicians, help with decoding, completing, and filing insurance claims, same-day appointments, and unrushed, longer time spent with the doctor. Doctors who embrace the practice of concierge healthcare tend to have smaller scale practices, a patient-centered philosophy, and strong care coordination.
Design experts recommend spending time to thoughtfully plan the office space. Neutral-colored waiting and exam areas enhances sophistication and puts patients at ease. Natural colors—blues, greens, shades of brown—create a soothing environment. Add comfortable furniture in waiting rooms—armchairs, sofas, tables with built-in charging stations—and warm colors on the walls create a cozy feeling. Clear signage is important, too, and helps keep stress levels down in patients and family members navigating an unfamiliar space.
Preventing Against the Spread of Infection
An aesthetic design elevates the beauty of a space—but equally important is using materials that protect against the spread of germs. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), approximately one in 31 patients in the U.S. contracts a healthcare-associated infection (HAI) on any given day. Healthcare facility designers use a variety of antimicrobial coatings to fight that spread of disease.
Copper finishes are naturally antimicrobial, killing E. coli, strains of methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), strains of the flu, and more. Copper adds warmth and richness to spaces when used for door handles, drawer pulls, and cabinet knobs and other areas that are touched frequently.
Photoactive pigments that coat glass, ceramic, and steel surfaces, kill microbes exposed to artificial and natural ultraviolet (UV) rays—and these coatings are often used in commercial bathrooms as well as operating, exam, and emergency rooms.
Indigo LED lighting limits the spread of airborne bacteria found in treatment and operating rooms. This combination of 405nm indigo and white LEDs kills bacteria by causing a chemical reaction that destroys the microbe’s cells. One brand—Indigo-Clean—shows
Incorporating Right Healthcare Design Trends
The healthcare industry is a continuously-evolving, complex system that must adapt constantly to reduce operating expenses, address patient needs, integrate emerging technologies, and comply with stringent regulations while still delivering world-class care. A healthcare facility must accommodate a full range of activities while promoting patient safety and welfare in an environment that reflects calm, competency, and care—and that partners with the medical team to guide patients and their families on their journeys.
Design techniques play an integral part in the overall patient healing process and experience—whether it’s inviting nature inside, updating lighting design and strategies, using color, maximizing space and room function with multipurpose furniture and movable walls, creating warm and inviting patient rooms, or finding more effective ways to integrate and use technology.