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Quality design leads to improved outcomes: this is a factual assertion, and not merely rhetorical bluff. ‘Evidence-based design’ is now an essential component of healthcare planning and delivery.
There are many factors which contribute to ‘excellent design’ including medical planning, expertise of the doctors and support staff, colours, textures, inclusion of families, natural daylight, temperature, humidity, air quality, models of care – and so on. Each factor may only have a small incremental impact on the overall design outcome, but nevertheless each remains important as part of a greater whole.
In recent years there has been much greater awareness of, and therefore emphasis on, the ‘Healing’ or ‘Wellness’ environment. Clinical trials have demonstrated that the human body’s capacity to heal is affected by its the environment.Climatically extreme environments, like deserts, greatly inhibit the natural healing process – as do environments that are claustrophobic or overly spacious.
Good design requires an effective ‘controlled environment’, not simply with regard to temperature, humidity and air quality but also on issues such as daylight access, landscaping and water features. Quality design embraces the patient experience from the point of entry into the healthcare system to the point of exit, incorporating sensitive subjects such as ease of pay and recovery programmes.
Interestingly, one of the most significant shifts in healthcare provision in recent times is the move to less clinical and more welcoming environments, more in keeping with the hotel and leisure sector than conventional healthcare. Some facilities today are more akin to 5-star hotels than old-style hospitals. This is particularly prevalent within countries in the region.
The design objective is essentially to reduce stress and place the body in a comfortable state, meeting its physical, physiological and emotional needs. This is particularly important where patients are already traumatized and/or anxious, a common consequence in people who are unwell.
Creating healing environments therefore forms a key aspect of healthcare design work, fundamental to the effective treatment and wellbeing of both patient and worker alike.