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Create an emotional connection with healthcare design

Think back to a time when you visited a tired, drab healthcare practice as a patient. Even worse, maybe you worked in one! How did you feel? Compare that feeling with an experience at a smart, modern healthcare practice, and you will appreciate how the medical fit-out design affects us emotionally. Healthcare design and fit-out company Evoke Projects looks at how interior design impacts the emotional journey for patients and staff.

For patients, the healthcare design can nurture and soothe, supporting mental health during times that are often filled with anxiety. For staff, the emotional connection to a workplace will either make them loyal or tempted by the myriad of job vacancies in 2022. It’s more important than ever before to create a positive patient and employee experience through your healthcare design and fit-out.

Three levels of emotional connection to design

Looking at general human behaviour, we can learn a thing or two from design school Interaction Design Foundation.1 They write that designers should try to reach people on three cognitive levels to evoke a positive user experience:

  1. Visceral—Users’ gut reactions to or their first impressions of your design.
  2. Behavioural—Users subconsciously evaluate how your design helps them achieve goals, and how easily. They should feel satisfied that they’re in control, with minimum effort required.
  3. Reflective—After they encounter your design, users will consciously judge its performance and benefits, including value for money. If they’re happy, they’ll keep using it, form emotional bonds with it and tell their friends.

How to create an emotional connection to your healthcare design

So how can we translate this insight into strategies and tips for healthcare design?

1. Generate a visceral reaction with aesthetic appeal

That initial ‘gut’ reaction to your healthcare design will be felt by both patients and staff. The aesthetic appeal, sounds and smells will have most impact at the visceral level. Practices have to balance hygiene with visual appeal, but the healthcare design can achieve both with clever use of materials and medical furniture.

  • Materials
    Natural materials and textures complement healthcare interior design. Bamboo and copper are both hygienic and environmentally friendly. Bamboo contains a natural antimicrobial agent called bamboo kun. If natural flooring is outside the budget, consider wood-effect flooring and faux stone tiles.
  • Waiting room furniture
    Aim for homely looking furniture with upholstered chairs rather than stark vinyl. Durable, hygienic fabrics are available such as bleach cleanable Sunbrella Contract.2 For reception counters and tables, curves are easier to clean than angles. Neurologically, we prefer curved lines rather than straight lines so use curves in your medical design and furniture choices.
  • Colour and imagery
    Artwork that features nature and nature-resembling colours such as green, blue and brown are perfect for healthcare practices.
  • Light
    Natural daylight is always welcome and uplifting. Smart lighting that senses movement and can be set according to the patient need is the next best thing to natural light. Examinations may need a bright light, but a mental health assessment does not.

2. Create a behavioural reaction to your healthcare design

  • Patients
    Patients will have a behavioural reaction to your medical design. Did they find their way around easily, were they comfortable and COVID-safe? A pleasant relaxing experience will promote a positive behavioural cognitive response.As well as the aesthetic biophilic design elements such as natural light, materials and colours (above), biophilia also affects the subconscious mind. An outdoor courtyard where people can commune with nature will set your practice apart from others. Within a hospital setting, one study found that during weeks when posters of realistic nature scenes were hung in the lounge, the administration of as-needed antipsychotic injections was 70% lower than when the walls were blank.3
  • Staff
    For staff, a healthcare design that considers WELL Building StandardTM guidelines will support day-to-day well-being and work practices. The WELL Standard is based around ten concepts: Air, Water, Nourishment, Light, Movement, Thermal Comfort, Sound, Materials, Mind and Community.4Lean healthcare fit-out design will improve efficiency and make staff feel more in control. An example is Harvard Vanguard Medical Associates – Atrius Health in Boston, USA, where the medical fit-out is standardised with every treatment room having the same design. This means clinicians know where to find everything and re-stocking supplies is efficient. A second door in the examination room enables clinicians to quickly access administrative staff. The overall result of this Lean methodology is a healthcare design and fit-out with a smaller footprint, reduced waiting and appointment times and better workflow.

3. Leave a lasting impression

Both staff and patients will reflect on their experience with your practice.

According to the Harvard Business Review, “research has shown that hospitals that feature new designs and amenities send patient satisfaction scores vaulting skyward”.5 Better patient outcomes can obviously be achieved if patients return to the same practitioner with continuity of care. Their reflective reaction needs to be positive.

Staff work long hours in sometimes difficult conditions. The more that the healthcare design can support their well-being and workflow, the more loyal they will be to your practice.

For healthcare design and fit-out ideas that promote an emotional connection, please call Evoke Projects on 1300 720 692.

1. https://www.interaction-design.org/literature/topics/emotional-design
2. https://commercial.sunbrella.com/
3,5. https://hbr.org/2015/10/better-healing-from-better-hospital-design
4. https://www.wellcertified.com/

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