The healthcare industry has witnessed a radical shift in the evolution of interior design and spatial planning over the last decade. This movement transformed once clinical looking spaces, which felt cold and uninviting, to more artistically functional interiors focused on creating better patient experiences with friendlier environments that integrate technology.
The main objective behind this dramatic shift was to change public and professional perceptions and experiences associated with healthcare environments. This article explores how designers are achieving these new ‘home like’ medical spaces which have been purposely designed with a more residential feel to them.
The recent evolution of healthcare interior design has a lot to do with the way lighting has been used. With a growing focus on personal wellness and preventative methods of care, the idea of environmentally friendly healing spaces has become a prominent feature in modern day healthcare design. This approach is what paved the way for the mélange of the interior spaces we see today that contain natural surroundings.
By maximizing the use of sunlight, designers were able to create interior gardens that bring an element of the outside to the inside. It also breaks up ‘unnatural’ (e.g. concrete or glass) interior elements and provides a breath of fresh air to patients and medical care providers alike.
Dubai’s City hospital has been a great example of the evolving movement in health care design. Their interior design conveys an indoor outdoor feel which has been achieved through the use of the glass glazing and maximizing the use of sunlight in each patient room. These ‘near-to-nature’ designs also capitalize on studies promoting the healing powers exposure to greenery can have.
The overall objective is to use natural elements to achieve therapeutic settings that boost moods and morale. Other approaches to building interior spaces that connect both staff and patients to nature include providing views to the outdoors, the inclusion of water elements and the creation of landscaped gardens/exteriors.
Patient needs are another major contributor in transforming healthcare design. Designer briefs include requests like ‘create an emphasis on our holistic approach’ and ‘amplify a sense of confidence and hope among the patients.’ This has led designers to explore different modes of infusing a sense of tranquility and harmony into the design of each space.
In order to achieve this, designers have been experimenting with various colors - from more vibrant colors in active areas to calmer palettes in surgery/operating spaces. LED lights play a complimentary role in this approach by providing adjustable colors, temperatures of light and required brightness.
This step away from white florescent lighting fixtures to warmer tones with a more decorative look, provide flexibility and have the ability to create different ambiences within the same space depending on patient requirements e.g. warm tones can create a cozier feel which bright lights allow Doctors to perform examinations.
Hospitals have been known for their use of monotonous color pallets and furniture settings that lack creativity. Recently, the healthcare industry has been shifting away from dull looking reception desks and gloomy waiting areas and moving towards more innovative spatial treatments and creatively inspired social gathering spaces.
The recently opened Valiant hospital in City Walk, Dubai is yet another great example of where designers have used more organic forms with fresh looks on materials to create a more inviting ambience and have been paying a great deal of attention to the comfort of the furniture pieces that go into each functional area.
The aim is to evoke a homelier look and feel that can accommodate family and friends to enhance social support for patients. Another ornate shift in healthcare design has been in the use of wayfinding and signage. These additions allow designers to dress each interior space (from corridors to operating rooms), taking away from the clinical look.
Depending on the client, designers can get extremely creative with signage, using it as a way to characterize each space, introduce color and infuse more fun in spatial design.
Using fonts and images that are more relevant to everyday life also takes away from the ‘seriousness’ of an ambience enabling patients to relax and feel more comfortable in more familiar environments.
This transformative movement in design gained momentum as a result of the link between patients’ surrounding environments and their recovery process.
Studies revealed that the more familiar and calmer one feels in a treatment area, the more rest (hence less stress and anxiety) will be associated with the recovery process which can improve patient morale resulting in faster recovery times.
The drastic transformation in the use of the materials, lighting and spatial treatments in hospital and medical interiors has had a great impact on improving patient experience.
These characteristics are highly celebrated in the Clemenceau Medical Center in Beirut Lebanon and the recently under construction project Shaikha Jassim Al Marzouq Kidney Transplant Center, Kuwait is where the majority of the interior design focus on is the healing attributes and qualities of each space, healthcare designers are becoming more consciousness of patient comfort.
Nowadays living in an ever evolving world has shifted the focus from treatment only medical units and expanded their design prospects. Exploring ways of improving patient mental wellbeing through different means of interior design solutions highly enhances the healing process during a stay or treatment in a health care facility. Thanks to the constant evolution of the interior design and creativity of materials of the modern day world Health care industry is undergoing major revolutionizing improvements in years to come.