Estimated reading time: 8 min

Having well-calculated hospital design principles is a crucial prerequisite for an optimal healthcare environment. Here are the ones you need to consider in 2019.

Fully-functioning healthcare systems (held together by astute healthcare design) are the backbone of any society. They’re the bodies that help bring newborn life safely into the world. They’re the institutions which support us in times of need. They’re the organisations which diagnose, treat and cure illnesses and provide patient care to the sick and vulnerable. In this day in age, we need them just as much now as ever before. Alongside well-trained staff, remember that optimal healthcare relies on well-thought-out hospital design principles.

While these designs serve a purpose and function to an extent, it’s time for a more progressive approach to hospital architecture.”

Many of today’s hospitals (within the UK, at least) have reverted back to Victorian-era healthcare architecture, with narrow corridors forming long, skinny blocks. Segregation between blocks is, as it was in Victorian times, often minimal in order to halt the spread of contagious diseases. While these designs serve a purpose and function to an extent, it’s time for a more progressive approach to hospital architecture — one which focuses on the patient’s overall wellbeing.

New research-based, forward-thinking schools of thought have started to revitalise healthcare systems and bring in design principles which not only benefit the patients, but wider society. Without further ado, let’s examine the factors which anyone working within hospital interior design or healthcare architecture should think about in 2019.

Future-proof the building

Whether creating a waiting area or an X-ray room of a hospital, it’s vital to future-proof the design. This makes potential expansion further down the line easier and, in effect, extends the lifespan of the medical centre. Let’s start by looking at hospital machinery, for example. Rooms which house large, bulky machines, such as MR scanners, should be positioned somewhere the machines themselves can be easily moved and replaced. Design a system where machinery can be placed on an outside wall. This way, any out or ingoing transfer process becomes easier, more efficient and is integrated into the general concept.

In the case of large machinery, like MR scanners, consider putting in place larger electrical feeders during the initial plan and design process. Needless to say, this is far less problematic than doing so in years to come. This works to future-proof the hospital, while simultaneously enhancing its ability to adapt and accommodate changes in technology.

inside-hospital

Photo credit = RMJM Healthcare | CasaSolo

The principle of future-proofing applies to how the care facility will serve the patients themselves, too. Designers should anticipate a growth in the number of beds and plan for additional departments to support that. Or, at the very least, ensure that the hospital is designed in a way that any expansions and modular prefabricated systems can be easily facilitated. Research changing population demographics and keep these in mind during the primary stages of the facility design process. This helps to make sure that the building can stay in use for as long as possible. If your findings show that the hospital will serve an area with a high birth rate, for instance, then look into building a bigger maternity ward.

Alongside this, it’s always worth bearing in mind ambulatory patients (those who are able to walk and, in most cases, won’t be staying the night). More and more healthcare institutions are accommodating technical, powerful diagnostic and treating rooms for these patients, with the end goal being to ensure that they spend only as much time as necessary in the hospital itself. Thanks to this, the principal care rooms are reserved for those who need them most.

Simple measures like reducing walls and barriers mean that clinical areas can easily be reconfigured to meet future needs. In certain cases, this can aid collaboration between distinct medical teams as they begin to work more collaboratively. Ideally, a cleverly-designed and well-built healthcare facility will last for over 30 years. Once you’ve laid a solid architectural framework, look at hospital design concepts which really centre around the patient and society as a whole.

Always consider social impact design

The concept of social impact design centres around design which seeks to fix humanitarian issues. In the case of hospital architecture, the issue in question could be poor health in civil societies. Architects can also implement a more wide-stretching business concept, the notion of the Triple Bottom Line (or TBL).

In short, TBL broadens a company’s overall outlook to include not just the financial bottom line (or profit), but social and environmental responsibility, too. This concept is particularly relevant when looking at hospital design, as it can be broken down into people (the patients and end users), profits (the financial stability of the institution itself) and the planet (how environmentally sustainable the building is as a whole). By approaching the design process with both social impact design and TBL in mind, architects can look at building hospitals which don’t just benefit patients, but larger communities, too.

Healthcare institutions can bridge this gap by adopting these principles in hospital architecture, with designers mapping out spaces which advocate a healthier lifestyle and make hospitals institutions of health, rather than solely health care.”

To start with, it helps to look at the concept of social impact design and how it can be applied to hospital design. Social impact design becomes paramount when approaching the question of how many beds a hospital can hold (a more traditional school of thought in hospital architecture), along with office spacing and other ancillary rooms. Instead of just thinking about bed occupancy, architects should adopt a more socially-conscious approach.

hospital-outdoor-area

Photo credit = RMJM Healthcare | CasaSolo

Start to make more spacious areas where patients can walk around and recuperate, like large corridors or courtyards with benches and seating areas. This approach teaches healthy-living principles which can be mirrored in the daily lives of people who interact with the hospital, whether they’re doctors, cleaners or patients. On the whole, this works to promote a more health-focused outlook to civil societies.

Think about designing outdoor areas ripe with vegetation and greenery. Studies have shown that knowing and experiencing nature (and consequently natural lighting) is beneficial to general well being. In hospital design, this is something which shouldn’t be overlooked. For many illnesses and ailments, including light activity is key to recovery. By creating spaces which can host this, patients start a rehabilitation process which will take them out of the healing environment and back to their daily lives. In turn, this promotes a more health-focused attitude in hospitals and addresses one key factor of ill health for many people — inactivity.

Social impact design promotes a link between the individual, civil society and the buildings and designs which bring them together. Healthcare institutions can bridge this gap by adopting these principles in hospital architecture, with designers mapping out spaces which advocate a healthier lifestyle and make hospitals institutions of health, rather than solely health care.

Embrace digital & physical advancements

The world is becoming increasingly more digital. Communication takes place on an ever-growing number of mediums, such as messenger apps, Skype calls and even futuristic telepresence programs. Hospital design needs to adapt to embrace these advances. Face-to-face healthcare can and will not be replaced, but by accommodating new technology, hospital designers can create healthcare systems which are fit to operate as time moves on.

Nothing can replace the presence and expertise of a doctor in the room, of course, but by building spaces fit to host digital consultation processes, doctors can then work to prioritise hospital bed demand.”

Design spaces where doctors can use these tools to connect with patients. Such an approach means that bed spacing becomes less of an issue, as this way, people who might not need to use the hospital are given relevant and specific medical advice. Nothing can replace the presence and expertise of a doctor in the room, of course, but by building spaces fit to host digital consultation processes, doctors can then work to prioritise hospital bed demand. The same spaces can also be used for cross-hospital consultation, helping medical professionals share advice and expertise digitally.

Sensitive flooring is another measure which can be implemented to technologically enhance hospital design. This can be used to detect whether a patient gets up to use the bathroom, falls or, in the worst case scenario, tries to escape. Thanks to this, doctors are given greater visibility over hospital occupants and can use this to work towards improved patient care. If the architecture firm behind the building embraces and accommodates technological advancements like this from the start of the design process, the hospital will be able to reap the benefits for decades to come.

Adapt, embrace and look to the future

Regardless of whether you’re future-proofing a building or incorporating social impact design principles, embracing current trends is pivotal to optimal hospital design standards. Look at ways they can be implemented across patient rooms, nursing stations and across the healthcare interior, then health systems can stay fit for purpose and cope with the changing demands of a population.

Read more into the anatomy of clever hospital design in this blog post, or let us know what you think the key components of healthcare architecture are in the comments.

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