Patient care drives healthcare design. It informs every choice in the process. There are many different needs depending on the type of medical professional or specialty practice involved, but the objective remains the same. “Facilitating patient safety and maximizing their quality of care is the goal for the architect, designer, contractor, and consultant,” says Joey DelPrincipe, healthcare architectural designer at McCalla Design Group in Dallas.

Patient care is complex. It must be medically top of the line, comforting in less than comfortable situations, and strategically designed to be emotionally supportive to patients and staff alike.

Healthy Design

Many of the emerging trends in healthcare design come partly in response to exciting and healthy developments in the industry.

The introduction of programs lke WELL or Fitwel, which are similar to LEED but for health and wellness, brings health to the forefront of design. Things like lighting, access to good food and water, fitness facilities, and clean air are just a few of the standards for WELL- and Fitwel-certified buildings.

The International Energy Conservation Code called for more efficient energy usage and “healthcare designers responded with better HVAC and lighting systems, dynamic glazing, natural lighting, and energy modeling—all of which are healthy for the environment and the patient,” DelPrincipe says.

The right materials go a long way to make design healthier. Whether we’re talking about managing risk or keeping things clean, choices in materials can make or break a healthcare environment. Nonporous materials like tile, especially porcelain, reduce the potential for contaminants and increase the likelihood of having a clean and sterile environment. Unlike other types of flooring, tile does not emit any potentially harmful substances that are a risk to human health, such as VOCs, formaldehyde, PVC, and allergens.

Psychology of Design

Healthcare has long had an institutional feeling, but designers are pushing in the other direction. Comfortable environments that feel more like a home than a medical facility are becoming the standard. That means that beauty and comfort are viewed as just as important to a patient’s well-being as a sterile environment is.

Community is another aspect that is becoming important in healthcare settings, especially in senior living centers. Designers are putting senior health centers in the middle of communities and making the center its own public area with shared spaces for learning, socializing, and working.

Many designers are also turning their attention to medical staff. Providing some creature comforts for the staff strongly influences both job satisfaction and patient care. Spacious and well-equipped break rooms, full kitchens, sleeping spaces, access to the outdoors and nature all contribute to a happy, healthy medical staff.

The Future of Healthcare Design

What does the future of healthcare design look like? “I believe we are heading toward a greater dialogue between patient care and healthcare design,” DelPrincipe says, “where the architecture continually plays a greater role in how the care is administered rather than a means to achieve four walls and a roof.”

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