Design for health, design for people
In the past, medical centres and healthcare practices were designed as functional places with a focus on hygiene and equipment. Today, healthcare design is becoming more people oriented as it’s recognised that a sterile environment shouldn’t extend to the whole feel of a place! Evoke Projects looks at how modern healthcare design aims to create spaces where patients and staff feel more at home.
Healthcare design and fit-out beyond the waiting room
You wouldn’t normally expect to find people-focused design and fit-out elements beyond the waiting room, where patients are often welcomed with artwork, a children’s play area and the occasional pop of seat colour. However, modern healthcare interior design aims to create a “homelier” environment for the entire patient experience from arrival through to consultations and treatment. This approach reduces stress and contributes to positive holistic patient care.
Workplace fit-out should support staff well-being
Importantly, as well as treating patients, healthcare practices are a workplace for medical professionals and support staff. In fact, the Health Care and Social Assistance industry was the largest industry by employment in the 2016 Census of Population and Housing, employing 12.6% of Australia’s working population.
Ironically, despite the presumed focus on health, staff burnout is an issue in the healthcare sector. Long hours, shift work and stress take their toll. People-centric healthcare design and fit-outs that support well-being are becoming more important with the focus on attracting and retaining good staff. This is particularly the case in regional areas where staff shortages are common. If staff are healthy and motivated, the quality of patient care will improve. Reduced absenteeism also leads to a more productive and efficient medical practice.
Healthcare fit-out tips
If you have a new medical centre to fit out or refurbish, Evoke Projects has some healthcare design tips to make your space more appealing to patients, doctors and staff.
1. Design your healthcare practice to reflect the modern patient care model which tends to be team based. Give doctors and ancillary health professionals the collaboration spaces they need to work together. Meeting rooms aren’t always necessary; consider using meeting pods with power, charging points and screens for reviewing X-rays and scans. For example, Accent Furniture’s HuddlePod or ThinkTank pods.
2. Encourage staff to take some time out by providing breakout spaces within the healthcare design and fit-out. Even the locker room can morph into a stylish coffee space with comfortable lounge chairs. Consider the location of these areas, particularly if staff need to be on-call for urgent assistance, otherwise the areas will be under-utilised. In the busy world of health care, staff are used to being on their feet and available at all times. They will need management encouragement towards a cultural change that recognises carers need some downtime to function at their best.
3. As well as collaborative and breakout spaces, create other activity based zones in the healthcare fit-out design. Instead of individual desks or offices, people can move to the area that suits the type of work they need to do at that time. Plan for quiet work areas, research or administration work spaces, patient interaction rooms, treatment rooms and waiting areas.
4. Although doctors have traditionally had a dedicated room, this is a wasted real estate cost if they spend a large proportion of time elsewhere (e.g. performing surgery or at a different medical practice.) ‘Hoteling’ can work well for doctors where they reserve a room for the days and times they have patient appointments.
5. Healthcare design and fit-outs can support well-being by conforming to WELL Building StandardTM guidelines. The WELL Standard is based around ten concepts: Air, Water, Nourishment, Light, Movement, Thermal Comfort, Sound, Materials, Mind and Community. Please visit their website for more information or talk to the team at Evoke Projects.
6. For shift-working or on-call medical practices, up the ante in the rest/sleep zones with some homely bedroom touches such as lamps, cosy bedding and books.
7. If you’re not ready for a new fit-out, a lick of paint is a simple healthcare refurbishment that can transform rooms. In patient areas, choose wall colours that are soothing, such as muted orange or pale pink. Pale blue and blue-green are natural calming colours but can feel cold so add splashes of colour with artwork and furniture. Greens and woody browns are also tranquil colours that invoke nature. Paediatric waiting rooms and treatment centres might prefer to brighten their environments with vibrant colours to appeal to children.
8. A healthcare fit-out or refurbishment will inevitably include hard, non-porous materials such as tiles. Add touches of homeliness with decorative pieces, art, modern window blinds and residential style light-shades. Fabric wall panels can be used in non-sterile areas to soften the environment.
9. Privacy and confidentiality are obviously important factors in healthcare interior design, but the hard surfaces typically used for easy cleaning reflect sound. To counteract this, acoustic partitions and sound absorbing ceiling panels can help keep private matters private.
10. Plants evoke a natural feeling of well-being and provide cleaner air and an acoustic benefit through sound absorption and deflection.
To find out more about healthcare interior design and fit-outs, please call Evoke Projects on 1300 720 692.