We’ve all seen drab healthcare facilities that are cold, unpleasant, and outdated. I walk through a hospital every day with salmon-colored walls and then through a lobby that’s filled with forest green and looks like an interior photo from the early 1990s. As designers, how can we prevent this outdated affect from happening to our designs in the future and be friendlier to the facility’s wallet? Hospitals and other healthcare facilities are big, complex businesses and it can be a struggle for many to make ends meet for day-to-day operations, let alone renovations. And patients enter a healthcare environment with a huge brick of anxiety on their back as it is—walking into an uncomfortable environment doesn’t make that any better. What are some solutions to these problems?

Right now we’re seeing a huge trend in holistic design and themes of nature. These types of design decisions are being based on evidence-based design, and we’ve learned a lot about color psychology in regards to patient reactions. We’ve also found through research that access to views, natural and cool color schemes, and elements of nature such as water and plants can help in the healing process. But, are we going to look back on our designs in a decade or two and say, “Wow, that space was designed in the 2000s”?

Back in September, Deborah Burnett blogged about color in regards to her predictions of color in the future. She discussed the brilliant idea of antimicrobial polycarbonate panels and LED lighting. The idea is that the color of the lighting can be changed to adapt to each patient and his/her needs. That may fix our color trend issue for several years, but will enough healthcare institutions be able to afford that kind of technology to provide high-quality healthcare to our citizens?

That brings me back to this hospital lobby. As I sit here in a chair surrounded by dark green walls with no access to outside views, I feel very claustrophobic. What could have been done in the initial design and construction of this hospital project to make it more welcoming and comfortable? What renovations can be made now to make it last for decades to come?

Is the answer more neutral walls with color trends brought in through rotated-out artwork? Is it the idea of nature and natural elements in healthcare interiors? Or perhaps you have some thoughts, too…

Works cited:

Burnett, D. (2009). A healthy dose of color. HEALTHCARE DESIGN – Blogs on www.healthcaredesignmagazine.com; 09 Sept 2009.