In recent years, evidence-based design (EBD) has taught us that nature contributes to healing, colors can affect mood, and sound can contribute to stress. In the healthcare environment, aesthetics have greatly improved over the last 20 years. However, I still anticipate many changes ahead. It is obvious that the healthcare environment is a complex one, and the occupants no doubt are just as complex. So in dealing with people from many varying backgrounds, ages, abilities, and personalities, how can we cater to all of them? Or, should the question be, is itpossible to cater to all of them? These are questions I’ve been pondering for quite some time.

It has been shown that five things contribute to a successful healing environment: social support, positive distractions, access to nature, control, and elimination of environmental stressors. Evidence-based design has led us in the direction of scenes of nature and soothing environments as part of healthcare aesthetics. But how does that affect each patient individually? Let’s look at some “what-if” situations.

EBD has proven that private patient rooms are better for reducing hospital acquired infections, improving sleep, and increasing patient satisfaction—and those are very valid points. What if there is a patient who would prefer a double room, though, perhaps because of socializing preferences or increased mental comfort in knowing that someone is in the room in case of a fall? Can we accommodate that if the situation does not contribute to the spread of illness and infection between the two roommates? What if the patient sees the extra room for family as an annoyance and a contributor to family staying for long periods of time? Can the room be adapted in that situation to encourage shorter visits?

Perhaps one solution could be the design of more flexible rooms to allow for doubling of patients or for the addition of extra beds if needed during disaster situations. Paint colors could be more neutral and color brought in through art and other accents. Artwork could be easily swapped out or even digitalized depending on the patient’s preference. There could be an option of bed linen colors or patterns. Other things to think about may be ways that we can adapt a room to transition between a child patient one day and an elderly patient the next. Or, could we provide amenities for long-term patients, such as services to customize certain features in the room to fit their taste?

Fellow blogger Samantha Sirzyk made some excellent points in her most recent blog, “
Person-Place Congruency and Well-Being." The spaces we create can have positive and negative results on a patient’s mood and emotional state. The more successful our designs are in tapping into patients’ positive emotional states, the higher the patient satisfaction and, therefore, higher the quality of the hospital. There may not be a solve-all solution since so many factors must be considered, but the unique types of occupants are an aspect in the design process that is not to be overlooked. I’m looking forward to seeing the future of healthcare design and how we continue to tap into and continue to bring forward solutions to these complex challenges. What are some of your thoughts on this topic?