Healthcare Design Tips for Hospitals + MOBs

Healthcare Design Tips for Hospitals + MOBs

Many factors must be considered when designing hospitals and MOBs to maximize efficiency and patient care. The healthcare facilities that stand out as being well-designed are always the result of thorough planning and expert collaboration.

Here are some of the necessary elements to consider when planning a new facility.  

Getting to Campus   

A well-planned campus layout will serve facility designs for years to come. Access roads into and around the site must be considered for ease of navigation by three main groups:  

  1. Staff
  2. Patients
  3. Visitors

If new roads can’t be made or old ones adapted to improve the flow of traffic to campus in and out, at least consider improving wayfinding along the routes to help improve navigation and avoid traffic disruptions.  

In addition to arrival traffic flow, parking is another exterior consideration that must be carefully planned. If the budget allows, consider valet service at main entry points to help alleviate the stress of finding accessible parking spaces. 

Patient drop off and pick up areas should be clearly marked and simple to navigate.  

Feeling Welcome

Hospitals are putting more thought into how a patient or visitor feels when entering the building. Signage, landscaping, windows, and lighting are a few of the elements that can make entry points more welcoming and less intimidating. 

All public entrances need to be accessible and should be planned to reduce the distance that someone parking in handicapped parking areas will need to travel. 

Sites with a good bit of grade change require additional planning for accessibility. When front entrances are a few feet higher in elevation than parking due to grade change, this increases the amount of travel for a handicapped person to reach the entrance. It is essential to provide an alternative path for them that is accessible. 

Finding Your Way  

The selection of finishes and other design elements not only affect the aesthetics, they can help visitors, patients, and staff navigate spaces. An effective color scheme, design and floorplan will reduce the amount of signage a facility needs to aid in wayfinding.

MUSC Shawn Jenkins Children's Hospital, Wayfinding

MUSC Shawn Jenkins Children’s Hospital, Wayfinding (MPS in association with Perkins&Will).

Comfort When Waiting  

Waiting areas should be located where they are easy to find. Interior finishes and furniture should be comfortable, free of clutter, easy to clean, calming and relaxing. Proper acoustics and appropriate wall art can also aid in reducing stress.  

MUSC Health, West Campus

MUSC Health, West Campus

High-Functioning Clinical Spaces   

All users, including staff, benefit from well designed and high functioning clinical spaces.  

Incorporating positive distractions like artwork, access to natural light and views of the outdoors, themed installations, or attractive ceiling features can help calm patients in areas that contribute to anxiety, such as imaging suites and procedure areas. Always consult a professional interior designer to assure room lighting is balanced and appropriate to the function of the space. Finishes and furniture can also aid in reducing patient stress.

Here are some top tips for designing high-functioning clinical spaces. 

  • Make them staff-friendly so that staff can efficiently and effectively do their job minimizing risk to the patient.
  • Surfaces should be easily cleanable; this reduces healthcare-associated infections (HAIs).
  • Finishes should be calming and reflect aspects of nature when possible (tones, colors, etc.)
  • Spaces should be adjustable for patient preference such as lighting that patients control. Consider the level and placement of all types of lighting — indirect, direct, reading vs. down lights, sconces, dimmers, switches near the bed, family areas, etc.
  • Furniture should be comfortable and supportive so that family members can participate in the care for their loved one without discomfort. Patient furniture should be supportive, so that patients feel safe — especially when transferring to and from different types of furniture.

Staff Only Respite Areas 

Areas where staff can step away into a calming environment are no longer luxuries — they are practical for maintaining morale and staff well-being. Patients are not the only ones who benefit from natural daylight and calming interiors. Dedicated storage lockers and convenient food prep areas are other places that help staff feel considered and accounted for.  

MUSC Shawn Jenkins Children's Hospital, Respite Patio

MUSC Shawn Jenkins Children’s Hospital, Respite Patio (MPS in association with Perkins&Will).

Healthy Buildings = Healthy Occupants 

Bringing in natural light wherever feasible can go a long way towards optimizing the environment for health — not just for patients, but medical staff as well.  

quote iconHospitals and clinics are places of healing first. There are design elements that can contribute to the well-being of all building occupants.

A Harvard Business Review study found that access to natural light and views of the outdoors was the number one attribute employees crave at work. Incorporating landscaped outside spaces and even planting campus or rooftop gardens is another wonderful way of addressing the well-being of patients, visitors, and staff.  

Close attention should also be paid to the types of finishes used in interior spaces from a health standpoint by selecting materials not on the Red List (Building materials that are harmful to humans and/or the environment). Building materials, filtration, and indoor air quality are all important attributes of a healthy space.  

Location, Location, Location 

Where vertical circulation elements are in your facility can make or break its efficiency. You must know the quantity and type of elevators to optimize patient, staff, and equipment flow from floor to floor. Designing ways of separating staff and service areas from public traffic is another necessity.  

Knowing where to locate entrances and exits and how to handle traffic flow are elements that benefit from thoughtful planning and research. For example, minimizing a facility’s crossover traffic is a way to leverage design to improve patient satisfaction. Patients coming into a facility for treatment should not have to pass recently discharged patients.  

Additional Patient-Centered Design Tips

There is no “one-size-fits-all” solution, but here are more best-practice tips for medical design:  

  1. Allow patients to customize their experience; this reduces stress and gives them a feeling of control over their care. Giving patients methods of adjusting the lighting, or selecting music are two ways of letting patients customize their space.  
  2. Remember that patients appreciate a diversity of environments while they are receiving care. The best facilities offer options for private, semi-private, and public treatment spaces—depending on the patient’s personal preferences or reason for being there.
  3. Do not Overlook the Discharge Experience. Provide a separate, accessible area for patient discharge . Recently discharged patients may not feel or look their best, design discharge in a manner that maintains a patient’s dignity and protects their privacy.  

There are many complex design elements that are unique to the planning and design of healthcare facilities. Make sure you are consulting a proven, experienced team to maximize the experience of your facility for all occupants.  

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