Healthcare System

Hospital Design Should Consider the Psychological Aspects of Healing

Research has long confirmed that aspects of hospital design can support a patient's health and well-being during their stay

Long before COVID-19 made the public aware of the importance of good air ventilation, designers had been concerned with how physical environments affect people’s well-being and mental health.

In the 20th century, hospital design underwent a profound change. Hospitals used to be a place for only the treatment of diseases and injuries—or places strongly associated with death.

By the mid-20th century, due to medical and technological advances, as well as the ongoing development of diverse approaches to health care, hospitals had become centers of health systems. Nowadays, hospitals are not only places for treating disease and illness; they’re also institutions for promoting physical and psychological health, and places of recovery and healing.

Today, patients expect more than just treatment. And as hospitals’ mandates and missions have shifted, so has hospital design.

Healing Environments

Over the decades, significant advances in hospital design have been made to better support a patient’s process of recovery. The concept of a healing environment puts the patient at the center of hospital and health design.

To this end, in addition to patients’ clinical needs, their psychological needs must also be considered in the design process.

For example, empirical research has shown that natural daylight, contact with nature, and a pleasant indoor environment promote a sense of well-being that benefits patient recovery.

Physical aspects of hospital interior can aid patients’ health and state of mind.

Patients’ Perceptions of Control

Design researcher Roger Ulrich’s theory of supportive design considers how the physical and social environments in health care settings can affect patients’ well-being, including their stress levels.

According to this theory, the challenges and considerations for improving the health environment can be classified into three main branches: perceptions of control, social support, and positive distraction.

Each of these elements can be viewed as an opportunity for improving a patient’s spatial experience.

To allow patients to perceive a sense of control in their environment, some studies have focused on the value of mapping and wayfinding in the planning phase of hospital design. These can help patients navigate the hospital independently.

Social Supports

Access to social support reduces patient levels of psychological distress during their time in the treatment center environment. This can be done by providing patients access to private and quiet spaces where they can discuss personal information or express their needs to family, friends, and hospital staff.

As an example, arranging furniture so it provides acoustic and visual privacy for patients in hospital public spaces can provide a sense of social support.

Positive Distraction

Positive distraction is anything that can catch a patient’s attention or interest and contribute to a positive state of mind or mood.

Visual distraction elements such as televisions, reading materials, indoor plants, views of nature, or artwork can make remarkable contributions to a patient’s feeling of well-being. Patients might access nature not only through windows with scenic views but also in paintings or art depicting nature in abstract or realistic styles.

Patient, Family, Staff Roles

Patients, families, caregivers, and hospital managers can also help to create a healing environment for patients.

For example, patients can bring their personal belongings to their hospital room, such as a small plant, pillow and blanket or their own reading materials or arts and craft supplies. These can act as elements of positive distraction.

Families and hospital staff can help generate pleasant conditions for patients by helping hang the patients’ family photos or artwork on the wall.

Design Incorporated Into Hospital Protocols

With adequate resourcing, health care providers could have more tools to improve patients’ states of mind through small design ideas that can be incorporated into hospital protocols.

For example, providing a whiteboard on the patient room wall would allow family members, the patient, and staff to draw figures of nature or write positive messages.

To help bolster a patient’s perception of control, hospital staff could draw a patient’s name on the glass window of their room with a smiley face to help them find their room.

To offer social support, hospital managers can provide free and easy access to Wi-Fi or a telephone for patients in all spaces of the hospital. Curtains or blinds can be considered in hospital public spaces, such as waiting areas, to offer flexibility for patients who prefer to communicate privately with hospital staff or their family members.

Including Health Care Staff, Patients in Design

Although patients, staff, and families can each help improve the patient’s experience of the hospital environment, designers should also include patients in the design process.

Accordingly, designers and researchers can benefit from a design approach that is connected with the role that health care staff, caregivers, and patients each play in improving the healing environment of the hospital.The Conversation

Mohsen Rasoulivalajoozi is a Ph.D. candidate of individualized program in the faculty of fine arts at Concordia University in Canada, and Golriz Farzamfar is a research assistant in design and computation Arts at Concordia University. This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

You May Also Like