Architectural Evolutions in Healthcare

Eight defined components come to mind when asked about wellness design: emotional, environmental, financial, intellectual, occupational, physical, social, and spiritual. Post Covid, a greater emphasis on creating wellness design has been the trend for not only healthcare staff and patients, but even visitors.

In this evolving healthcare landscape, it is important as a firm to stay current with healthcare trends data in this ever-changing healthcare industry and most importantly ready to adapt as needed to best accommodate the needs of modern design to provide an increased wellness environment for patients, staff, and visitors.

The primary modern design request for healthcare facilities includes a connection to nature. Healthcare designers are accommodating this request in a couple of ways, adding more natural-looking interior environments, and providing visibility to a calming outdoor exterior design. In addition, healthcare facilities are increasing outdoor spaces for their staff to rejuvenate and reduce their everyday mental stressors. With everyday stressors, it is crucial to include the natural elements in areas providing a sense of calm and reducing anxiety.

Three essentials for a calming space design are natural lighting, a natural color palette, and concise wayfinding. Natural lighting helps the body produce Vitamin D, provides focus, and even exercises a sense of happiness. A natural color palette creates a calm and tranquil atmosphere and is proven gentle on the eyes. In addition, wayfinding helps to create clear and concise navigation starting with accurate parking markers. Having direct signage to appointments or the location of loved ones within a facility helps reduce anxiety in an already stressful environment. Studies have found that the size of healthcare facilities causes these feelings for patients and visitors. Eliminating any confusion from the beginning of an individual’s visit, concurring with the calming of natural lighting and color palettes, creates a somber experience for the facility’s patients.

Flexibility in design is an expectation of today’s healthcare industry. Covid had a dramatic impact on every aspect of healthcare from hospitals to medical offices to the operations of senior living facilities. The key is to be able to adapt to the ever-changing needs of modern medicine without having to make structural changes to current spaces. The ability to turn a hospital room into an isolation room should be as simple as utilizing the mechanical systems alone. Designing waiting room areas for those who are ill and separation for those who have an injury or non-contagious illness, this request has grown beyond pediatric clinics and now is adapted across the healthcare industry to include hospitals, emergency rooms, and even doctor’s offices.

As we continue to grow in wellness-focused design, we have seen an increase in meditation spaces. Yet, Chapels have steadily declined to be replaced with more inclusive, non-denominational spaces of reprieve. In addition, whereas designs had started to eliminate hand washing stations, this design element has now become an essential request, in addition to more sanitation stations throughout healthcare facilities.

Following Covid, a rise in ambulatory surgery centers (ASC) has been seen, due to many elected surgeries needing to be postponed or canceled as a result of the pandemic. These surgeries are a significant revenue source for hospitals and a vital part of a facility’s success. Hospitals have begun to create on-campus and many off-campus ASC for their elected surgeries and to house physical therapy (PT). The elective surgeries include spinal, cardiology, and orthopedic. Investors have seen the increased need for these facilities and have partnered with local hospitals to provide these services for their communities.

When we begin the design for a healthcare facility, we start with the patient in mind. By bringing intentionality to each area of the facility, whether a patient room, lobby or supply closet, the space should advance productivity, wellness, and safety. As design trends continue to evolve, we plan to stay on the leading edge.