Kellie Reed is the Director of Healthcare at Tangram Interiors
As healthcare evolves in the United States, interiors are also changing to respond to trends that include new approaches to patient care and interaction, considerations for families and other visitors, operational efficiency, and productivity for doctors and nurses. The ultimate goal is to create humanized environments that optimize healing.
The health facilities include a wide range of rooms, each with their own requirements and improvement opportunities. Architecture and design firms work with interior specialists to develop breakthrough solutions for these challenging environments.
Main trend: residential inspiration
Whether it's a patient waiting to be seen or admitted, or a family waiting for news about a loved one, the waiting room environment is an area ripe for improvement. It doesn't have to feel like a bus stop with uncomfortable rows of seats hindering face-to-face communication. Additionally, a dingy and uninviting waiting area can decrease confidence in the overall quality of care provided by the facility.
A feeling of warmth can go a long way in overcoming these issues, as can furniture in comfortable designs and fabrics that accommodate different body styles and sizes. The idea is to create as much a feeling of home as possible by arranging the living-style pieces in groups.
Since sitting is an important element in waiting areas, ergonomic designs such as the Steelcase Embold collection include curved backrests for comfort and support, flexible materials for moderate movement in various sizes and seating configurations, and waist-high and bariatric support options. Side pieces such as tables in various shapes and sizes also add variety to the room and create a homely atmosphere.
Main trend: communication and patient-centered care
The days of an exam table with cold paper, the doctor sitting on a roll stool, and perhaps a computer on the wall are quickly fading. A new model of care is on the rise that aims to combine the latest technology, family involvement, and the overall evolving needs of patients and doctors. In addition, a new type of environment is taking shape that encourages the active participation of all involved as this experience begins to include discussions about lifestyle and behavior.
Essentially, this trend means a move away from physician-centered care towards a more patient-centered approach. At the same time, it is a central concern to reconcile efficiency and high patient stress with patient satisfaction and potential burnout at the doctor's.
Improved interaction with patients can be supported by room layouts that encourage eye contact and easy information exchange. An example is seating where the doctor, patient, and other family members are like the same height. The same applies to the placement of monitors for the electronic display of information. Patients may also need to connect a personal device to exchange data. Round tables facilitate personal conversion. Home-style furniture can help create a more relaxed and open environment.
Main trend: support for family and guests
A hospital stay can range from a night for observation or a simple procedure to several days or even weeks for more severe situations. Regardless of the length of time, having a family member in care can be a very stressful time for everyone involved. And that stress can affect patient comfort, recovery time, and ongoing care after discharge.
Family and friends can have a significant impact on the patient in many ways. But all too often they are crammed into a small area or have to sleep in an uncomfortable chair. They also have limited or no access to storage, work surfaces or charging stations for mobile devices. It is difficult to have critical discussions (both with the patient and the doctors), share meals, and just hang out with each other.
An example of how many of these requirements can be met in a single unit is Steelcase's sofa-style Surround collection with a high-back arm for reclining postures, an integrated sliding table, ambient lighting for reading, a fold-down sleeper and power outlets and USB ports in the arms, open storage space for personal items and access to the floor for quick and effective cleaning.
Main trend: Bring in the outside
Most of us appreciate how meaningful a connection with nature can be. Studies have shown that it can help reduce stress, increase focus, and increase job satisfaction. So what can the inclusion of the "outside" in healthcare settings do?
Positive effects can include distraction from general stress from health problems, doctor visits or hospital stays, as well as anxiety reduction, mood enhancement and even pain management. Today's approach to tackling biophilia goes beyond bringing some plants into the room and engaging in activities that appeal to all of the senses.
Textiles that use patterns, colors, materials and textures can bring natural shapes and images into rooms that create a calming effect. Natural surfaces like wood can humanise rooms. Water features ensure gentle movements and a calming sound. Gardens can create pleasant smells. Patios, balconies and courtyards can serve as areas for recharging and meditating.
Key trend: advancing technology
Telemedicine uses electronic information and telecommunication systems to enable a wide range of remote activities in areas such as care, education and administration. The benefits include improved efficiency, lower costs, greater convenience and expanded access to care, as well as real-time patient monitoring and patient self-reporting.
The effective use of telemedicine helps providers and patients overcome the limitations of physical facilities by leveraging technological innovations. The costs for a “doctor's visit” can be reduced considerably. The practice can also lead to a reduction in hospital stays, fewer visits to emergency centers, and even increased patient survival.
Centers in hospitals or separate telemedicine facilities can connect patients, doctors, nurses and others literally around the world and within the same facility.
These areas can include collaboration areas as well as private areas for safe patient monitoring and interaction. Technology considerations include data viewing, camera positioning, network and security, conference calls, and system availability (on premise or via the cloud). Ergonomics includes lighting, acoustics, screen placement, desk adjustability, supportive seating and customizable work surfaces. Raised floors as well as removable panels and walls can be important if regular expansion or reconfiguration of the space is expected.
Overcoming traditional and preconceived notions about health practices can sometimes stand in the way of adapting to change and moving into the future. However, with demands on all fronts to improve the patient experience and quality of care, as well as cost management, we see innovations making their way. Fortunately, these new approaches are adopted when positive results are achieved.
Kellie Reed is the Director of Healthcare at Tangram Interiors. The views expressed here are from the author and not from ALM's Real Estate Media Group.