Create a space, and control it
by George A. Takoudes AIA
Hospitals are places of profound human activity: exuberance and solace, solitude and community, interaction and introspection. Prognosticators tell us of a future full of wearable technology and real-time biometrics delivering big data to medical centers. Telemedicine will allow surgical teams to collaborate with robotic surgery across the globe. Such innovations, we are told, will transform hospitals and improve medical outcomes. Future spaces for healing will challenge this generation of architects to accommodate technology’s warp speed and invent patient spaces that synthesize these complexities of human-centered design.
But health, quite simply, is about people: a caregiver’s compassionate touch, a parent’s concerned gaze, a moment of courage in the face of a diagnosis. How do architects translate the patient experience into spaces for healing? Perhaps it’s in the way recent projects offer wireless control that allows patients the choice to leave their room white or “paint” it with LED lighting technology. Or how simple, uncluttered rooms void of beeps and buzzes will have flexible furniture systems tucked into walls to allow family to comfort an expectant mother. Or the way a young cancer patient — dressed up as Batman or a Disney character — receives chemotherapy in an active, open space that looks more like a living room than a sterile hospital space.
Healthcare architects readily consume complex guidelines and metrics that establish many of the necessary and inevitable rules of engagement in design and planning of our hospitals. But in our future, successful healthcare spaces might be more about the nuanced interplay between patient and physician, technology and structure, regulations and creativity. Even within the highly regulated world of healthcare design, architects will create spaces that protect and heal, are private yet open to possibilities, and express the passion and optimism of architecture to affect not only the built environment but also the human condition.
Sit up, then head on out
by Lee Moreau AIA
The inpatient room is all about getting out.
What’s the goal of the inpatient hospital stay? Ultimately, it should be a speedy and full recovery — and, to that end, we need to reconsider the design of our inpatient facilities. There needs to be a clear pathway in a patient’s mind (and through the clinician’s processes and tools) out of the hospital and toward the patient’s home. Many elements of contemporary hospital design conspire to obstruct that pathway: shared hospital rooms that have been proven to lead to increased infection rates, a lack of calming artwork or views of the outside, or the location of supplies and equipment requiring nursing staff to enter and leave a room multiple times.
Our team at Continuum has been working with Herman Miller on a range of healthcare projects focused on the inpatient experience. Ethnographic researchers talked with clinicians, hospital administrators, architects, and designers and realized that a key aspect of the journey to recovery involved getting people to transition out of their beds, where they often feel immobilized and helpless. Patients recover faster when they can start moving.
One outcome of our research process is the Nala Patient Chair, designed to propel the user upward and outward, to help speed recovery. Functionally, the chair helps caregivers minimize the risk to their health, as well as the patient’s, when transferring the patient from bed to chair. Emotionally, its welcoming design encourages the patient to get out of bed and continue the healing process. Once seated, the patient is comfortable and can relax; the body is well supported, and movement is easy and natural.
According to a 2010 study by the US Department of Health and Human Services, an estimated 27 percent of patients suffer an adverse event or an experience that results in temporary harm while hospitalized. Although modern medical breakthroughs abound, the physical space of a hospital is statistically more dangerous than a typical county fair. There are times when a stay in a hospital room is unavoidable, of course, but whether it’s a chair, a room, or a supply closet, there’s much we can do to advance hospital room design and help accelerate recovery.