We are all patients at one time or another. We all have the experience of going to a healthcare facility—whether a community clinic, hospital or outpatient center. And while we don’t necessarily have the opportunity to design the facilities we visit, we do have the opportunity to reflect on our experience as patients.

What was your impression the last time you went to a doctor’s office? How did the environment contribute to your sense of well-being?

As I’ve previously mentioned, research is an important component of any design decision.

In preparation for a recent client presentation, our staff researcher Kara Freihoefer and I conducted an e-mail survey within our client base. The 50 percent response rate included multiple generations and demographics.

The survey covered a series of questions, from the specific (Circle the range of minutes that you consider as a long wait in the waiting room) to more the open-ended (Describe characteristics of your ideal waiting room?)

The results confirmed that patients have specific ideas of what makes them comfortable in a healthcare facility (natural lighting, privacy, and short wait times, among other comments). Lighting, in fact, ranked as the most important feature, with comfortable seating running a close second. Patients may be in a healthcare facility for only a short time, but the space impacts them emotionally and physically.

This is the first step in more detailed, on-going research assessing the patient experience. Because designers invest in a facility from pre-design through post-occupancy, we have many occasions to evaluate the value of our design decisions. The best way to confirm our design decision is to test them. This ultimately benefits the patients.