The Institute for Patient-Centered Design Inc. focused its fourth annual design competition on patient room design for mental health facilities, with the winner announced at the recent Healthcare Design Expo & Conference.

“We decided to tackle this subject in order to raise awareness of the needs of behavioral health patients, inspire more thoughtful design and investigation into users’ needs, and to develop a collection of work from the professional as precedent/case studies for progressive behavioral health design,” says Tammy Thompson, architect, medical planner, and director of the Institute for Patient-Centered Design Inc.

In partnership with OFS Brands and collaborating with Jim Hunt, president of Behavioral Health Facility Consulting in Topeka, Kan., design teams were invited to submit their ideas to be reviewed by a panel of behavioral health experts and users. One of the design directives was to create an environment that allows patients to retain their personal dignity, comfort, and control over as many aspects of their environment as possible while maintaining staff and patient safety.

Nine submissions were received and three finalists were chosen by the jurors, including RS&H (Jacksonville, Fla.), HDR (St. Paul, Minn.), and Erdman (Madison, Wis.). These teams presented their projects in virtual reality spaces in a session at the Healthcare Design Expo & Conference in Washington, D.C., where conference attendees voted HDR’s “One Haven” as the winner.

Jim Thomson, vice president and managing principal at HDR, says the firm’s submission included several features designed to empower patients, including a movable bed that can be pushed up against the wall or bolted to the floor, depending on the patients’ desire; lighting controls via integral blinds and dimmable fixtures; and a digital art wall that allows patients to select from a variety of landscape scenes to be displayed.

Another important element was providing a sense of privacy for patients through an angled room design with a canted toilet room, so that staff can open the patient room door and see any part of the room from the doorway. “This allows the staff to check on the patient but not have to come in,” he says.

Thomson says the industry is getting better at focusing on the needs of behavioral healthcare patients, but he’d like to see those efforts go further with environments that aren’t just safe but that also engage patients in self-healing and spiritual growth.

“We have to make spaces that are nurturing and therapeutic, designed to reduce stress and alleviate suffering,” he says. “We have a responsibility to provide an environment that enables mental health patients to live the most satisfying, hopeful, and productive life consistent with the limitations caused by their illness.”

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