Designing healthcare spaces as healing environments
There used to be a time when hospitals were predominantly cold, clinical environments designed with little imagination and minimal regard for the wellbeing of patients and staff. But, thankfully, all that is changing.
A new focus on patient-led design
The new approach to the design of hospitals and healthcare facilities puts the patients' needs front and centre. It recognises the fact that the built environment has the ability to have a positive impact on patients' health, wellbeing and recovery.
But the design challenge here is real. How to deliver a functional, hygienic space while still creating a welcoming environment that puts patients at ease?
A carefully designed environment has been shown to have a positive effect on patient wellbeing and healing, speeding up recovery times and making hospital stays infinitely more pleasant. Because of this, designers and architects are now putting patient experience firmly at the forefront of the design of healthcare settings. They are creating calm and soothing spaces to help minimise the stress levels of patients, visitors and staff.
At the Denmar Specialist Psychiatric Hospital in Pretoria, South Africa, for example, our soft and easy to clean FibreGuard fabrics were chosen to create a tranquil and welcoming reception area. A muted colour palette featuring green and taupe with gentle, curved shapes immediately puts both patients and staff at ease.
The healing power of architecture
The ability of architecture to impact how feel, behave and even how we recover from illness is phenomenal. Thoughtfully designed spaces can be nurturing and therapeutic to the extent that they have a positive effect on patient recovery – speeding up healing times and reducing the length of hospital stays.
"Medical care cannot be separated from the buildings in which it is delivered. The quality of space in such buildings affects the outcome of medical care, and architectural design is thus an important part of the healing process." – Dr Robert Horsburgh, Professor of Epidemiology at the Boston University School of Health
How to design healing healthcare spaces
1) Create choice & connection
Giving people a greater sense of control has been shown to reduce stress, so it's important to create an element of choice in healthcare settings by introducing customisable, modular seating. This can be adapted according to the users' requirements – catering to a range of mobility needs.
Sociable spaces will also help patients and their loved ones feel connected and comfortable. Using fabrics such as our FibreGuard Pro range, you can create a soft and welcoming environment while still benefiting from our fabrics' embedded stain-free technology and antimicrobial properties.
Perfectly suited to clinical environments because of their stain-resistant and easy to clean qualities, FibreGuard Pro fabrics bring a homely touch to healthcare settings with ranges including plain weaves in rich colours, graphical-effect velvet designs and even chenille fabrics with a lovely visual textured bouclé effect.
2) Choose calming colours
Colour has long been known to have a beneficial effect on wellbeing and healing. In fact, Florence Nightingale herself was aware of the power of colour to affect recovery long before colour psychologists got in on the act!
"Little as we know about the way in which we are affected by form, by colour and light, we do know this, they have an actual physical effect," Florence wrote back in the nineteenth century. "Variety of forms and brilliance of colour are an actual means of recovery."
With this in mind, it make sense to select a soothing colour palette featuring cool tones of blue, green and pink in muted shades. It is also useful to design healthcare environments with a view to allowing as much natural light into the space as possible because of its beneficial links to improved energy and wellbeing.
3) Reduce noise
Loud and unwelcome noises can have a profound effect on health and wellbeing, leading to elevated blood pressure and increased stress. In a hospital setting, the prevalence of hard surfaces can mean that sounds are amplified which can lead to impaired sleep for patients and delayed recovery outcomes.
It's worth remembering that many of the points we've raised in the above blog post could be applied across all sectors of the built environment. After all, health and wellbeing are vital components of our daily lives. And if carefully considered design can improve how we live and how we feel in a particular building that can only be a good thing.