Opinionated hospital design Matt 11 Sep 2006

32 comments Latest by Unity Stoakes

A recent trip to visit a relative at a hospital led to this discussion…

Jason F.
man, hospitals are horrible places to get well, but I understand them I guess.
Ryan S.
ironically, hospitals suck the life out of you
Ryan S.
hospitals are all blank and white
Jason F.
RS, they really do. I’d never realized that before.
Ryan S.
not uplifting
Ryan S.
wellness is really mental. and that atmosphere doesn’t make you feel good
Jason F.
they also don’t let you sleep. every hour something happens. it’s really weird. sterile, cold, etc. I understand it medically, but emotionally and physically it really does take its toll.
David H.
It’s really interesting that not more is done to keep the environment more uplifting. Just some freaking color would do wonders.
Ryan S.
people don’t believe in it
Marcel M.
ICU is one of the most depressing places on earth, for sure
David H.
And you should think they have enough expertise/knowledge about how it helps in a hospital
Jason F.
I think part of it is that they have to cater to everyone
Jason F.
and not everyone likes this color or that color
David H.
that’s it
Jason F.
and when people are trying to get well they don’t want stuff they don’t like around them
David H.
we’re starting an opinionated hospital!
Jason F.
hahaha!
Jason F.
there are definitely some of those out there
Jason F.
and they’re great
David H.
You’re going to like orange, dammit
Ryan S.
there aren’t that many people who go outside in a park
Ryan S.
and think "this place is ugly"
Ryan S.
some things aren’t as relative as people commonly think

Good news: Where the Healing Touch Starts With the Hospital Design describes the growing movement to humanize hospital design.

A sprinkling of architects and designers around the world are working to greatly change hospitals by humanizing their design, a concept that is slowly gaining influence in Europe and the United States.

The idea is obvious: Build inviting, soothing hospitals, graced with soft lighting, inspiring views, single rooms, curved corridors, relaxing gardens and lots of art, and patients will heal quicker, nurses will remain loyal to their employers and doctors will perform better…

Their research shows, for example, that patients who can see trees instead of cars from their windows recover more quickly, and that single rooms help stave off infection and draw more visits from friends and family members.

The article singles out the Rikshospitalet University Hospital in Oslo which “has been held up as a model hospital and has attracted pilgrimages by designers all over the world.”

Built around the village concept, the 585-bed hospital starts out with a beautiful main street, which gently curves from one end to the other and has a skylight for a roof. One end of the street is a floor-to-ceiling window covered with a multicolored painted glass design, which gives off a stained-glass effect when the sun shines.

Along the way, there are pretty lampposts with hanging plants and, most important, large works of art - fountains, sculptures, textile hangings - that serve as landmarks for the different departments, a strategy that helps patients find their way around the hospital.

There is even a piano on the main street for patients and visitors to play whenever they want. Staff members travel long distances on scooters…

The architects insisted on lots of windows with open vistas of gardens, the spectacular fjords and a beautiful old building that was once a psychiatric hospital. Even doctors have windows in their operating rooms. Patients look out over the gardens, while employees and families in waiting rooms see the fjords.

Colors and furniture in the hospital change constantly, from pinks and blues in the patient rooms to energetic yellows in the physical therapy rooms. Waiting rooms have computers, foosball tables, pianos and television sets.

The hospital is also designed more horizontally, to cut the time that staff members spend waiting for elevators. Patients lying on gurneys do not see jarring fluorescent lights, but pretty curved ceilings with soft lighting. Since it opened, the hospital has nearly doubled its number of patients (250,000 a year), lowered its turnover and absentee rates and reinvigorated its recruitment, said Age Danielsen, its administrative director.

Rikshospitalet

Related:

Hospital’s design a healthy start:

The hospital set up two mock-ups of the rooms at its hospital in West Bend, enabling nurses and others to make suggestions. “The nurses designed the space. It wasn’t the architects.”

Whole Building Design: Hospital:

Hospital patients are often fearful and confused and these feelings may impede recovery. Every effort should be made to make the hospital stay as unthreatening, comfortable, and stress-free as possible. The interior designer plays a major role in this effort to create a therapeutic environment.

32 comments so far (Jump to latest)

Swati 11 Sep 06

They are probably looking into minimizing the cost of building the hospital.

nursegirl 11 Sep 06

Children’s hospitals are generally designed well. They often have colour-coded wings with exciting themes. Usually, however, the money to decorate comes out of those relays/marathons/walks/etc for the children’s hospitals. Most hospitals don’t put hiring an interior designer high on their financial priorities, unfortunately. They sometimes hire good architects, but architects can only help so much.

Interior designers that read this site: Consider volunteering some time at your local hospital. If you do, however, make sure you talk with a wide range of staff — Sometimes the most obscure things are the way they are for an important reason. If you do your work effectively, while listening to the needs of the staff, your work will help hundreds or thousands of people.

Joseph 11 Sep 06

Totally agree - hospitals should be doing way more to help their patients get well. The psychological impact of your environment cannot be understated.

Anonymous Coward 11 Sep 06

Great links Matt. Thanks.

For another angle on this problem… Here’s an interesting post from Bob Sutton about a study on Harrassment in Hospitals. Deals with how toxic the hospital environment is to the people who do the brunt off the work (expecially nurses).

It seems that more than the building has to change…

Markle 11 Sep 06

I sincerely hope that your ailing relative wasn’t bedded-up at Northwestern Memorial Hospital. There is an entire department here dedicated to the placement of ‘healing art’ around the hospital. There is an intense drive to ensure that the right balance is found between comfort, usability, antiseptic/sanitary environments and the human environment that the NY Time article mentions.

Things have been taken even further with our new Prentice Women’s Hospital with all sorts of organic design elements being incorporated into the patients’ surroundings.

It is refreshing to be involved with an organization that is actively working towards solving hospital usability and comfort issues. If anyone wants a tour, get in touch and I’ll point you towards the appropriate person.

Noah 11 Sep 06

Wow your hospitals aren’t like ours (Edmonton’s), ours are all kinds of crazy colors with art everywhere and the University Hospital in Edmonton is actually really pretty. TVs all over the place etc it’s a nice place to get well. Some of our older hospitals aren’t quite as nice but there is still almost no white anywhere it’s all pinks and greens and speckle paint with mediocre art and positive thinking posters.

Justin D-Z 11 Sep 06

Hopsitals are very white. Isn’t white the color of death in some cultures?

It’s virtually impossible to be safe from possibly offending everyone. I would bet that a hospital with a good, warm design including color that might offend someone would have fewer lawsuits averaged over time than the current sanitoriums. Someone should study that.

Daniel 11 Sep 06

I think there’s also an element of “this is what a hospital should look like, period”. I know I’d have qualms about a hospital that looks like Vegas (not that that’s the only alternative to white tiles and linoleum).
In other words, a hospital should look like a hospital - and that unfortunately equals sterile white tiles or whatever. Otherwise people might think that it’s not as serious a place as it should be - it wouldn’t convey professionalism. At least, that might what be what most hospital-designers think.
Of course, with a completely ordered, aligned and stark white environment, the slightest imperfection or fleck of dust stands out like a sore thumb. Of course hospitals should be clean and ordered, but it doesn’t have to be hazard-suits-clean. So an environmment that’s a bit less stark, could probably afford a bit more wear and tear, without people freaking about it. Again, not that hospitals should be the least run-down or grubby, but the normal hospital-look doesn’t allow for humans to be present, without it getting “dirty”.

Rob Poitras 11 Sep 06

Also related, I just found this article yesterday:
How the F1 Ferrari team helped make ERs more efficient and less complicated.

Otherwise people might think that itís not as serious a place as it should be - it wouldnít convey professionalism. At least, that might what be what most hospital-designers think.
That brings up an interesting question. Does a hospital or place of business need to look sterile and professional in order to be taken seriously?
If that is the case then most marketing agencies need to ditch their open and stylish offices for taupe colored cubicles and fake plants if they want to look like they know what they are doing when a new client comes to visit.

Clint Pidlubny 11 Sep 06

The real problem is the cost of medical treatment in the US. I think the first step is to make it accessible to everyone, then spend money on designers and architects to determine which shade of green has better healing powers.

Daniel Haran 11 Sep 06

Worldchanging mentionned a hostpital in a post they did on Gaviotas today:

“The Gaviotas hospital is also an astonishing example of self-sustainable technology. Global:Ideas:Bank describes it thusly:

The settlement’s hospital building is set on a rise, a maze of angles formed by sky lights, glass awnings, solar collectors, and brushed steel columns. A Japanese architectural journal has named this 16-bed Gaviotas hospital one of the 40 most important buildings in the world.

In a separate hospital wing, a large thatch ramada has been built for llanos-dwelling Guahivo Indians. Instead of beds, these patients lie in hammocks hung from wooden beams.”

dandan 11 Sep 06

Totally agree - hospitals should be doing way more to help their patients get well. The psychological impact of your environment cannot be understated.

Agreed. During my last visit to the hospital I had to wait around for someone and it actually made me feel ill just being there.

Ben 11 Sep 06

This was exactly the thinking we had when we approached The Wellness Community about making a donation. We looked around and said "There’s gotta be a way to improve the environment here that would make it more conducive to healing"

Instead of simply giving money we came up with the idea of the Choose to Laugh Library. A room filled with humor, color, and warmth. It was so well received that you wonder why design within hospitals isn’t given a top priority. It can be done cheaply and the effects of a positive environment on healing are well documented. Let’s put an end to hospital green once and for all!

Anonymous Coward 11 Sep 06

Jason’s comment “they also donít let you sleep. every hour something happens. itís really weird. sterile, cold, etc. I understand it medically, but emotionally and physically it really does take its toll.” really strikes a nerve with me.

I recently had to visit a pediatric hospital in Salt Lake City everyday (and night) for about two months. Whatever happened to the concept of being quiet in a hospital?

The nurses would ask if there is anything they could do to improve service and I would ask that the noise and banter in the hallways be kept low to allow my daughter to rest and sleep. Especially during the night.

I was told that would not happen. Which really floors me because it seems like such a simple thing to do. Excellent habits are a good thing to practice.

When I was growing up (I am 44) we were taught that hospitals were places where you should keep your voice down. Just like at the library. You should even refrain from making noise outside the hospital. When did that change?

Eddie 11 Sep 06

Here’s an article on the Mayo Clinic’s SPARC (See, Plan, Act, Refine, Communicate) lab that seeks to innovate in how patients and staff interact etc:
http://www.businessweek.com/innovate/content/oct2005/id20051027_614500.htm

“They want to remake the way health care is delivered, recasting the timeworn ways that doctors and patients deal with one another.”

Patrick Smith 11 Sep 06

Sorry forgot to post my info regarding being quiet in / around hospitals.

itsandyw 11 Sep 06

We had our third kid at Woodwinds Health Campus in Minnesota. From the way that all the medical equipment was deftly hidden, to the northwoods (yet not tacky) interior design, to a ‘minimal paging policy’, the place was more like a hotel or spa. Here’s a clip from a local PBS report on the place:
http://www.woodwinds.org/tpt-newmedicine/videotour.cfm

Christian Watson 11 Sep 06

Maybe children’s hospitals are different. We have put a lot of effort into making Seattle Children’s more friendly to our patients.

Our new outpatient building has a glass roof with a huge sculpture of a whale hanging from it and a giant undersea mural on the wall. You can even do tour of the art in the building.

We have life size animal sculptures all over the place and we even have a clown care unit that goes around cheering the kids up.

brian warren 11 Sep 06

We just got back from an overnight stay at a hospital. It was in the labor/delivery area and we had an amazing experience. The place was very attractive. We had a private room that was reasonably quiet. It had faux wood floors, nice wooden cabinetry that hid away some of the equipment, DVD player, TV, bathtub and shower, a place for me to sleep. It was more like a hotel than a stereotypical hospital. They even had room service. I had teriyaki salmon.

All in all, it restored my faith in hospitals and gave me some hope that more places will do this in the future. I’m wondering if the labor and delivery areas of hospitals are were we can look to see where things are going with the industry. They seem to really be looking at what people hate about hospitals and seeing what they can fix.

Noel Jackson 11 Sep 06

I recently spent four days in a hospital for heart issues.

I nearly went bonkers. The environment was so bad. I had to share a room with old men that were literally dying. I couldn’t sleep. It literally made me sicker for weeks afterwards.

Not just interior design matters - physical layout is really important as well.

SR 11 Sep 06

For the most part hospitals where we are located are overcrowded and I wonder if they really have a reason to improve any type of user experience.

I unexpectedly spent a week in the hospital with my wife last year and it was very draing. Everything from the ER, ICU, hospital room could not have been worse. The ICU waiting room where families of near death patients reside for days or weeks was the absolute worst.

Our new women’s hospital is very nice though, however it comes with a price tag.

Phil 11 Sep 06

Matt, I am sorry to hear about your relative, I hope they get well soon!

I am seeing some improvements to hospitals. During a recent trip to see a friend in the maternity ward I found out they have free wifi now in that area. And the colors were a bluish-green, not white!

Tom 11 Sep 06

The Evelina Children’s Hospital is London’s first children’s hospital to be built for 100 years, and is unique in one respect - it was designed by children for children. The result is an unique place, full of light and colour and surprising little touches that make all the difference - for example, all the door handles are at child height.

http://www.evelinaappeal.org/hospital/index.html

Joe Ruby 11 Sep 06

There have been a lot of “healing gardens” designed by landscape architects, that are adjacent to hospitals.

Patrick Teng 11 Sep 06

Maybe hospital architects can learn from Hollywood set designers. On Fox network’s House M.D., their hospital set seems like a great place to start.

They had warm colors, rich wood paneling, brass accents, and glass. A green garden in the middle of commons where the paitient rooms surround it. I don’t know about the glass walled rooms, but that would seem like a good start for a hospital design. And the furniture was updated, not plastic and second hand like couches that you see in hospital waiting areas.

I know that it’s only a set, but they can probably take cues from it. But then, are there new hospitals that are built anymore that can take advantage of this new school of thought? I don’t see very many new hospitals being built from the ground up. Most of the time, it seems hospitals are only adding new wings, and the older wings are left with decor out of the 80s, and the attempts of hanging “art” in the older wings are half-hearted attempts at making them more hospitable.

"M" & "D" 11 Sep 06

Suggest they commission Missoni and/or Etro to spice up the interiors!!!

Himanshu Sahani 12 Sep 06

IIT Roorkee, India, where I studied had a small, multibed, single-storied hospital built around an octagon. The center of the octagon was a beautiful Graden. It was the nerver center of the entire building. There were corridors going radially on all sides of the octagon with rooms on one side. These rooms again looked into beautiful gardens.
I would say that the views were pretty uplifting. I wish I had a picture of it to post here.

HimS

Steph Mineart 13 Sep 06

What bothered me most about the hospital was something you probably wouldn’t think of at first - the smell. I was there for a week after my appendix burst, and the visual design was pleasant enough, but the smell was horrible — primarily because every doctor and nurse use the same foul-scented anti-bacterial hand cleaner when they walked into the room. After a few days I got up (wasn’t supposed to) and walked my IV drip outside to get some fresh air. They had to help be back inside later, but it was worth it.

Later, when I was there for a week after open-heart surgery, the same thing, except that I couldn’t get up to leave, so my family brought air fresheners, and replaced the hospital’s anti-bacterial with ours.

It’s really surprising how my smell can affect you.

Bryan C 13 Sep 06

The improved building designs sound great, but they’ve got to be very careful with the interior decorating stuff. Busy institutional buildings live hard lives and age very quickly. Before you know it things go from attractive and cutting-edge to shabby and dated .

A relative of mine recently had to spend some time in a rehab center after a stroke. You could tell that the original decorators, architects, and designers had tried hard to make the place pleasant for extended stays. But then you noticed that the early-90’s maroon paint and faded prints hadn’t been updated in years. Despite the excellent care he was receiving it made you wonder what else had been neglected.

Hospitals have to be acutely aware of maintenance costs, in time, money and inconvenience. There’s really very little downtime for maintenance or remodelling. You can’t close the ICU to give the walls a fresh coat of paint, or shut down a busy hallway to put down unstained carpet. The boring white-walls-and-linoleum look isn’t great, but it’s pretty much timeless, and it resists damage from bodily fluids, hard knocks, and abuse. Hmm, maybe they could look to kitchen materials for alternatives?

JF 13 Sep 06

hereís really very little downtime for maintenance or remodelling. You canít close the ICU to give the walls a fresh coat of paint, or shut down a busy hallway to put down unstained carpet. The boring white-walls-and-linoleum look isnít great, but itís pretty much timeless, and it resists damage from bodily fluids, hard knocks, and abuse. Hmm, maybe they could look to kitchen materials for alternatives?

Very good and practical points. Thanks for making them.

Unity Stoakes 14 Sep 06

We feel the same way about most health web sites which we believe are unfriendly and confusing…which is why we just launched www.organizedwisdom.com (a health-focused social networking site) based on “less” design. We found our Web design team on the 37Signals job board (we were one of the first to try the service) and it was one of the best things to ever happen to our company. Our designers (SmallPositives) not only helped us create what we think is a welcoming, uncluttered, and warm design for the site, but also with Getting Real. It’d be great if our designers could start remodeling hospitals and redesigining health insurance forms now too!

Unity Stoakes 14 Sep 06

We feel the same way about most health web sites which we believe are unfriendly and confusing…which is why we just launched www.organizedwisdom.com (a health-focused social networking site) based on “less” design. We found our Web design team on the 37Signals job board (we were one of the first to try the service) and it was one of the best things to ever happen to our company. Our designers (SmallPositives) not only helped us create what we think is a welcoming, uncluttered, and warm design for the site, but also with Getting Real. It’d be great if our designers could start remodeling hospitals and redesigining health insurance forms now too!

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