What COVID-19 taught us about the design of health facilities for better patient experience

The ongoing pandemic has led to extreme levels of stress and anxiety which has shone a spotlight on patient experience in healthcare. What should be a safe place of healing, has in many cases been leading to an increase in negative emotions and wellbeing. With health systems under pressure yet again, it calls for a rethink of health facilities and smart hospital design.

What is Patient Experience in Healthcare?

Patient experience is the total experience of anyone admitted to health facilities and begins from the moment they enter the door. According to JLL’s 2021 Healthcare Real Estate Outlook, what patients cared about most was cleanliness, safety, and ease of access. This includes accessibility for those who can’t open doors, and those who shouldn’t touch anything at all. It also highlighted a stark preference for nearby health facilities, with 83% of patients surveyed preferring to visit the closest one, rather than driving further to one newly built or renovated.

Future Trends in Healthcare Facility Design

This has led to human centered design in healthcare that prioritizes patients, with architects and developers noticing many similarities between “consumer-friendly” retail concepts and patient-first smart hospital designs.

Patient-first Smart Hospital Design

In an effort to ease anxiety and focus on patient experience, hospital rooms are becoming smarter and extremely personalized. Room design, for example, is accounting for more wearable tech and integrated technology that the patient can use to control room settings including lights and heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC).

Digital signage syncs with electronic health records (EHR) to display real-time information outside of the patient’s room, including their name, physician, infections, and risks to note in their care. It helps notify visitors of protocol to ensure easing anxiety for patients, and keep track of visiting individuals with real-time location systems (RTOS), while in sync with centralized management systems.

New Technology and Data

COVID has made us more aware of the environment around us. With smart technology enhancing patient experiences in terms of cleanliness and ease of access, successful hospitals internationally feature large open lobbies with light-colored wood ceilings and warm white floors and walls. These spaces aren’t just stunning and pleasant - but also function as overflow for emergency departments, and all materials are cleanable and durable.

 Automating hospital entrances with touchless doors further manages efficient flows of patients, crews, and goods to prevent overcrowding and ensure social distancing even in times of crisis.

Healthcare of tomorrow: Community and Daily Life Integration

Health facilities have been increasingly at the center of local communities for close proximity to patients due to preferences for visiting the nearest location. On top of that, telehealth gained huge momentum during the pandemic, allowing patients to access healthcare from the comfort of their homes. These trends are likely to continue, casting more importance on the design of healthcare facilities and how they integrate locally to attract people.

Leading up to the pandemic, holistic wellness and fitness focused on nutritional counseling, and rehab services were particularly in vogue. While this has certainly slowed down, integrating health facilities with the latest consumer trends in wellbeing is crucial.

With the world collaborating throughout the pandemic and growing medical data access, health facilities in local communities will become expansions of a sophisticated global medical network. Not only offering traditional western-style medicine, but local health facilities will be interconnected with international smart hospital design and even Eastern and holistic healthcare.

So while the world may still be adapting to the new normal, many of these future trends in healthcare facility design are already here. A silver lining of the pandemic may just be an increased focus on human centered design in healthcare.

Questions and Answers

Q1: What is human centered design in healthcare?

Human-centered design (HCD) in healthcare is using a human lens to examine how health facilities should operate, look, and feel. HCD uses empathy and collaboration, ensuring that patients are consulted and listened to in order to create smart hospital designs with people at their hearts.

Q2: What is patient experience?

Patient experience includes every interaction that patients have within the health system, including medical plans, and with doctors, nurses, and staff in hospitals, clinics, and other health care facilities.

Q3: How to improve patient experience in healthcare?

Patient experience in healthcare can be improved by taking a human-centric approach, understanding what will ease patient anxiety, stress, and improve their overall wellbeing. This includes using data, technology, design, architecture, and materials.