Many hospitals think that they can have a sophisticated and modern hospital. They often find themselves in a complicated situation where they find it difficult to distil the journey of healthcare designs into a chart of key elements.  

The answer is, it is very difficult to achieve that goal. The healthcare environment is an ever-growing industrial domain. Today’s perfect hospital design addresses many functions for several users including patients, families, staff and c-suite. While hospitals have the core objective to deliver quality care services for their patients, so in this article, I have underscored top 10 elements that focus on patient-centric design for hospitals.

Despite the complexity, I believe there are design elements that empower the impact of the healthy environment within a hospital. If I had to advise hospital owners on where to focus _ if I looked carefully at the basic elements healthcare designers must chart_ I would start with the following; 

  1. Architecture & Campus Design

Good campus planning and architecture allows the layout of streets, building approach and building entries to facilitate as wayfinding devices. It is nerve-wracking to try to read signs while driving. Hospitals should have vehicular access and approach roads to be intuitive and clear to alleviate pressure on the commute. 

Moreover, choices in scale, lighting and materiality for the main entrance to the hospital, parking structures, and medical office buildings put patients and their families on the quickest path to the front door. In addition to this, hospitals should also try to create extra spaces to accommodate more patients in their hospital buildings by lowering down the excessive workforce and extra staff. 

For instance, most of the hospitals have in-house hospital medical billing staff. Due to their hospital medical billing department, they have less amount of space left and their hospital seems too congested. They should outsource hospital medical billing services  and get rid of excessive work stations within the faculty of their hospital.

They can also think of locating vertical circulation towers and major public spaces near main entries to serve as a beacon for those arriving at night, signalling to patients and families where to go with clearly illuminated entrances. 

  1. Welcoming Design Aesthetic

Good hospital design should reflect such aspects that can relate to the population i.e. regional values, the visual and cultural ethos of the institution. Today, many institutions refer to elements of hospitality while designing their vision of the new building. This includes covered drop-offs with velvet parking, open and transparent lobbies, public spaces and warm natural materials that evoke a sense of comfort. Concierge and check-in services are becoming very common these days. Art and sound contribute to creating a calming and welcoming aesthetic and providing positive distractions upon arrival. 

  1. Drop-Off and Parking

There is no better way to provide care services to your patients by eliminating all worry of arrival, drop-off and parking. Free valet services reduce the stress of finding a space, paying and returning to your car.  An expanded vehicular drop-off and pick-up area are included in these services. Hospital owners can also adapt this strategy for ride-share and a potential autonomous car revolution. This drop-off sequence will become more important than ever before because the parking garages are shrinking or are converted to other functional units of hospitals. 

  1. Internal Wayfinding

When architecture, medical planning, interior design and environmental graphics harmoniously blend, a first-time visitor can walk through space without the aid of following the maps. Aligning the patient journey with key architecture and interior elements alleviates the need for excessive signs that are a huge source of distraction. Less signage also means more room for a design that creates joy and delight. For example, bold colours or visually distinct changes at elevator banks pull people toward them. Using the concourse concept or promenade to connect departments together is a way to strategically organize wayfinding. 

  1. A Better Looking Waiting Area

The same is suitable for check-in desks and waiting areas to use the spaces and their visuals identities to intuitively help patients navigate through the hospital. 

The waiting room is one of the most stressful parts of a patient visit so designers should keep in mind to make it an amazing place to be. Designers should provide room for expansive views, windows for daylight, art and beautiful, comfortable furniture, laboratory tables. Locating waiting areas along the perimeter is an effective way to endorse wayfinding and shedding the burden of stressful waiting time period away from the patients in order to reduce their stress. 

  1. Pleasant Clinical Environment

Patients and staff enjoy a well-designed environment that simulates their sentiments in a positive way. While it is tempting to focus only on lobbies and waiting areas and clinical areas need just as much attention. Imaging suites, procedure rooms where patients are conscious and most importantly blood-draw stations benefit a lot from natural daylight and artistic material that can positively distract patients. These areas are imperative in creating a vibe of a calming and healthy environment.  

  1. Onstage / Offstage Environments (The Disney Effect)

Today, many healthcare institutions take cues from Disney’s onstage/offstage idea, where they can provide seamless medical services. When designing a new hospital, it isn’t just about separating experience areas from services areas but designing a circulation and planning diagram that allows the discrimination of goods and services from patients and their families, both vertically and horizontally. This concept varies degrees to this separation and effective criteria. 

For instance, adding service and patient transport elevators that are meant for the patient wing instead of at the end of the units reduces the amount of crossover between patients and services. 

  1. Healthy Building = Healthy Residents

Hospitals are destined to heal patients and the building of a hospital is a process of healing itself. Therefore, hospitals should also pay complete attention to the medical department instead of accommodating an extra department if the hospital is medium or small-sized. As I have mentioned earlier in this article that they should outsource their operations like hospital medical billing services so they can manage their medical faculty with complete satisfaction. 

Designers should use such construction material that allows fresh and filtered air and they should place the design in a manner that allows access to outside experience with operable windows or terraces in places where immune systems are not compromised in order to construct a healthier building. 

Looking beyond patients to a healthier environment, excess heat, rain and wind should be captured and stored for further usage. Since hospitals are mission-critical facilities and need to remain open and accessible after events like wildfires, tornadoes and earthquakes the perfect hospital is a standalone, net-zero, resilient structure. 

  1. Create A Personalized Experience

Personalization goes a long way in creating a comfortable experience. It also helps patients and their families have a better visit _ it also potentially leads to better results. Just think of all the different strategies to customize a patient’s experience: change room colour or lightning that can give a soothing experience to the resident. Moreover, designers can think of picking from a group, semi-private or private room for infusion or dialysis treatment; customize overhead music and artwork, and they may select from city or river views. When your design esthetics offer choice and a feeling of control to the patients then it creates a custom-tailored experience to the hospital. 

  1. Dignified Discharge

Finally, consider how to provide a dignified exit for patients who are leaving the hospital, but still require assistance. Provide a comfortable and private discharge route that doesn’t go through the main hospital doors for those using crutches or a wheelchair for the first attempt or recovering from a day procedure. This doesn’t only provide a more dignified experience to a patient while departing but can calm nerves for new patients coming into the hospital. 

As hospital owners, practitioners must pay attention to these above-mentioned 10 patient-centred elements to create positive impressions for all populations with a hospital. This list can help practitioners to start thinking about the right aspects of their hospital project and focus on design esthetics that can impact your hospital.