Hospitals are busy places—and caregivers, busy people. And it has traditionally been to them and their preferences that hospital planners have largely considered when designing bed placements, bathrooms, medical equipment, etc. Now patients are becoming part of the conversation--and when the patient is also an architect, the planners are even more likely to listen. Someone like Patricia Haley.

A senior associate at Booz Allen, Rockville, Md., Haley is a cancer survivor. Her treatment regimen took her through a continuum of care from office to hospital to outpatient infusion center. Each step of the way she saw opportunities to improve the patient experience. And now she has integrated that experience into her work.

In a session at HCD 2013, Haley challenged architects and design professionals to consider issues from the patient’s perspective. Current thinking and practices that guide design often create major obstacles for patients. An elevation as small as a door transom, for example, can feel as big as a speed bump to someone trying to walk with an IV pole on wheels, she noted.

Privacy is also an issue, but not in the commonly understood sense related to patient data. In the weeks she regularly visited the transfusion center she became aware that most patients do not want to be alone during the procedure. Since most infusion patients come alone, their ongoing support is through the group. “Isolation is not something you want when you’re going through a frightening experience,” Haley says.

Of course, some patients want privacy, either for personal reasons or because they are accompanied by a friend or family, so it is important to provide patients with an option for social spaces and private spaces.

What design professionals think works and what patients experience can be two different things. May the conversations continue.