4 Design strategies for optimal patient experience

The design of your practice can do a lot to make patients feel more comfortable.

Design matters in every environment and healthcare facilities of all shapes, sizes, and specialties are no exception. Throughout the space, all the way from welcome areas to patient rooms, there are unique needs and some universal solutions that create a patient-centered approach to care. Whether it's a new build or a needed refresh, the most important enhancements depend on making a modern decision versus going with the status quo.

Naturally there's going to be idiosyncrasies between environments. Hospitals and clinics have different requirements and there's a very strict divide between medical equipment and interior design. Working around and with these fixtures can be a challenge but not necessarily one that can't be conquered.

It's the little things

They say that the devil is in the details, but the thoughtful touches in a space are actually heavenly for patients. Think about the way that people feel while they're in a doctor's office and make sure that there's soothing considerations for each. People will universally feel better with seating that includes memory foam or enhanced padding, especially in overnight patient rooms with seating that's adapted for mobility concerns. Reception spaces benefit from enhanced accommodations as well.

Many patients experience anxiety, annoyance, fear, and a whole host of less-than-pleasant feelings before, during, and following an appointment. Stark white walls, bland furniture, and dated artwork does nothing to make anybody more comfortable. Pick out a color palette that's cohesive and unantagonizing, taking into consideration that green can make people feel more ill. Subdued blues, happy yellows, and slightly tinted grays are a perfect choice, especially when paired with coordinating textiles.

The more comfortable the patient, the more they'll embrace the more exciting details, such as intriguing paintings that highlight the room's palette or photography that's uplifting and tasteful. In reception spaces, pick out some plants that are well-suited to your lighting situation (even if that makes a fake fern a better idea) yet easy to maintain by staff. Informative diagrams are a hallmark of doctors' offices, some of which are quite dated or unattractive. Even if the specialists think these are the best, a tasteful frame can make the room look more modern and considerate for everyone included.

Quality, durability, and cleanability

When you're looking for textiles and selecting pieces, plan every space to ensure that you won't need to replace furniture on a regular basis. Reinforced metals aren't just important in bariatric chairs; you'll want to seek out frames that are made from high-quality materials that will stand up to time just as well as clinical fixtures. Especially with motorized recliners, it's worth the splurge to choose timeless and time-tested furniture.

Cleanability goes hand in hand with durability. Vinyl upholsteries aren't all made the same-- some of them are rated for different solvents that are significantly stronger than those used in other industries. This is incredibly important in patient rooms, ensuring that all specialties are prepared for the worst when it comes to client reactions and conditions.

The importance of lighting

Natural light is a luxury afforded to few clinical spaces and hopefully included in areas that need it the most. Thankfully there's artificial options that mimic sunshine, featuring warmer hues that are inherently more calming. LEDs are longer lasting and available in sizes that can be swapped out for florescent and incandescent bulbs in any area. Private and semi-private rooms should feature a dimmer that can ensure that lighting is tailored to both patient and provider liking.

Providers also need to be considered when creating a lighting scheme. Add task lighting to offices and areas that require utmost focus and concentration, including reception areas and their desktop needs. Some of these lamps can be adjusted to fit the user's preferred lighting with some opting for a brighter, colder lighting temperature.

Feedback and research is key

If you're reading this article, you're going in the right direction. Informed opinions from experts are a great place to start, especially those that go beyond universal tips and tricks and begin to explain the specific needs of specific spaces. It's important to work with professionals during your build, especially furniture-informed space planners that go beyond aesthetics, alongside architects and contractors that are modifying the space.

Particularly with a space refresh or redesign, it's helpful to seek direct feedback from those who have gone through the care experience. Digital surveys, simple questions, and market research provide valuable insight that goes beyond data or uninformed decisions from stakeholders. This also includes providers who have even more experience with the areas they interact with the most. Some of the results may surprise you, others may reflect your initial thought process, but every response is meaningful for the greater success of your facility.

Joanna Terry, is the director of healthcare space planning at National Business Furniture