Earlier this year I wrote about the evolution of waiting rooms and how these spaces have gone from simply a room with rows of chairs to warm, comfortable environments that are as important to patient and family satisfaction as they are to branding.

Another area on the list of spaces gaining attention and prominence in healthcare facilities is family and visitor spaces. And while waiting rooms are becoming smaller as operations becomes smarter, family and visitor spaces are expanding in variety and number.

What’s driving this trend? Two things: First, the recognition that family members are an important part of the patient’s care team and their needs and satisfaction contribute to the overall patient experience.

Second, technology is freeing parents, siblings, aunts and uncles, and friends to move about a facility and still stay connected to a patient’s status.

These two factors are inviting facilities to rethink patient and visitor amenities from a bench in the hallway to respite spaces in a variety of formats and locations throughout a facility.

“It’s creating a space that’s not just an afterthought, but it’s actually a designated important area on the unit,” says Christine Hester Devens, associate principal, interior project designer, AECOM.

Those spaces can include family lounges at the end of corridors with access to daylight, meditation rooms in nondenominational settings, media rooms for families to catch up on work, and sibling play areas in children’s hospitals. We’re also seeing more attention paid to outdoor spaces as well as dining options that allow people to take a break and relax outside the patient room setting.

Technology in the form of monitors located throughout a facility that give status updates or text messages from Smartphone-wielding nurses that alert families when a patient is leaving surgery or has arrived at their room are also fueling this transformation.

“A lot of facilities are incorporating these things that provide convenience to families,” Hester Devens says. “So they’re not stuck sitting in a waiting area for a long period of time.”

Attending to family members’ needs, in turn, benefits the patients, too.

“If you’re in the hospital and your spouse is still able to keep up with their work yet be present for you, you're probably less stressed,” she says.

So what new and innovative family and visitor spaces are popping up in your projects? And what do you think these spaces will look like five years from now? Send your thoughts to me at adinardo@vendomegrp.com.