Insight Blog

Healthcare Design II: Focusing on the Family

In last week’s post, Healthcare Design: Focusing on Patients + Staff, we discussed the increasingly important role of patient- and staff-centered healthcare design in the construction of medical facilities to improve efficiency and reduce patient readmission rates. The focus of this post is another crucial consideration in patient-centered care: the family.

Beyond the emotional support patients receive from their loved ones, cultural, lingual, and spiritual needs make the presence of family beneficial to patient comfort and improved health outcomes. Newer design elements reflect that this concept is valued in the healthcare industry, and this trend may become more pronounced as newly insured patients “shop around” for medical treatment.

According to Medical Construction & Design’s (MC&D) recent article, “Leveling the Playing Field,” there is a growing focus on family members being present for medical procedures and emergency visits, and hospital facilities are being designed with this in mind. Similarly, increased family presence in patient rooms requires ample space and furniture to keep guests comfortable during visits and overnight stays. There should also be sufficient room for hospital staff to safely navigate the area during these visits so care is not interrupted. A larger room that accommodates visitors also means they can assist staff with activities such as bathing and relocating the patient.

New technology will continue to play a major role in the evolution of healthcare facility design, and both patients and families can benefit from these changes. As an example, providing monitors can reduce stress in family members by allowing them to see a loved one’s status or what point they have reached in surgery treatments (pre-op, post-op, and so on).

Extended hospital stays can be extremely stressful to patients and their loved ones. Enabling videoconferencing is another novel way to keep people connected when long-term inpatient care is required. A study published in the journal Pediatrics, conducted by UC Davis professor James Marcin, showed that children who were hospitalized for at least four days demonstrated significantly reduced stress when they utilized UC Davis Children's Hospital’s videoconference offerings.

The waiting room is an obvious consideration when discussing design elements for the family. Steelcase Health in Grand Rapids, Michigan designed a two-room option in the waiting area to serve as both a consultative space and an examination space. With this, family can wait nearby while a patient is examined, without sacrificing the patient’s privacy.

Additionally, waiting rooms can often be uncomfortable, poorly lit, and ill-equipped for patients and visitors with special needs.

Design options for a pleasant waiting room include:

  • Non-institutional lighting sources
  • Adjustable, ample-sized, and easily disinfected furniture with varied fabrics
  • Aesthetically pleasing colors and artwork
  • Child-friendly areas

The pressure to achieve better patient outcomes requires healthcare facilities to continue improving the way they design and deliver care. Healthcare design options that allow families to stay comfortable and informed, while still maintaining safety and efficiency within the facility, can lead to increased patient satisfaction and quicker recovery time.

Sources: Medical Construction & Design, “Leveling the Playing Field,” by Dan Lee