Mohamed Azmy of Steelcase Health Middle East discusses how design can encourage family involvement in patient care.
Healthcare organisations are being forced to reassess patient experiences as new technologies, new processes and elevated expectations are challenging healthcare norms to adapt, improve and encourage new alternatives to the antiquated establishments of the past, according to Mohamed Azmy of Steelcase Health Middle East.
“Now more than ever, healthcare experiences are being judged on clinical outcomes, interactions with staff, and an institution’s ability to provide privacy, comfort and emotional well-being to a patient and their guests,” comments Azmy. Healthcare entities are also acknowledging the growing importance of factoring family involvement into an in-patient stay, understanding their propensity to reduce patient stress, enhance trust, provide staff with critical information and support positive health outcomes.
Well-designed healthcare environments can be a powerful tool in supporting a family’s ability to engage in their loved one’s care meaningfully, but the researchers at Steelcase Health find that many hospitals are yet to harness their spaces to maximise this engagement fully.
“Integrating design at the beginning of the process is critical if it is to have a tangible impact,” adds Azmy. “Whether for five minutes or five hours, people of all sizes and physical conditions naturally seek comfort and control over where and how they spend their time while waiting for critical information.”
From a spatial perspective, the design team at Steelcase Health suggests providing multiple settings within a given space: offering areas for consulting with a physician, areas for watching instructional videos, areas for perching while awaiting key information, and areas for relaxing or even sleeping.
The team recommends Surround Collection, which has the flexibility to serve as a sleep surface or sofa and offers features which support eating, working and socialisation.
“By creating a designated space in a patient room, it enables family members to care for their loved one, relax in comfort and communicate effectively with clinicians,” concludes Azmy.
Focusing on the family
Insights from Steelcase Health research team found hospital rooms often lack the support for family members’ underlying needs and identified five key factors, which can influence the family experience, encourage more involvement and enhance patient satisfaction and outcomes.
1. BLOCKED COMMUNICATION
With seats placed in a corner or against a wall on the other side of the room, the layout of most healthcare environments often makes it difficult for family members to view critical information and be active participants in the communication process. When better situated to participate, family members can share medical and dietary information, take notes and review test results, among other things. They are also more equipped to make a patient’s transition from hospital to home easier and help the patient follow discharge plans, which can prevent emergency room visits and hospital readmission.
2. DIFFICULT SLEEPING CONDITIONS
Uncomfortable chairs, temporary cots and in-room sleepers make it difficult for family members to stay comfortably with their loved ones overnight. Compromised sleep in an already exhausting and worrisome situation can wear on the family member and cause undue concern and feelings of guilt for the patient.
3. NO PLACE TO SHARE A MEAL
Not wanting to leave a loved one’s side unnecessarily, family members will often opt to have meals and snacks together in the same room, despite healthcare institutions offering a cafeteria area. Existing inpatient environments force families to improvise with whatever furniture they can find in the patient room, lacking support for meal sharing.
4. UNCOMFORTABLE ENVIRONMENT
Hospital environments are traditionally designed for the patient, with little regard for visitors. Limited furniture and storage room means spaces crowd easily and risk becoming dangerous if access to medical equipment is impeded.
5. NOWHERE TO PLUG IN
Family members trying to maintain a semblance of daily routine often struggle to create ad hoc workspaces, impeded by a lack of access to light, power and supportive surfaces on which they can use their computers.
About Steelcase Health
Steelcase Health leverages a comprehensive portfolio of healthcare applications, furnishings, products and services designed to support more connected care. Its research team studies the places that support health, providing insights, applications and solutions to support wellbeing and connections between clinicians, patients and families.