Medicine by design


Layouts and Interior Design Strategies that Curb Stress, Promote Healing

Healing gardens. Aquariums. Private rooms.
Descriptions for some of Central Florida’s hospitals and doctors’ offices make them sound more like five-star resorts than medical facilities. But times are changing. Building designs are becoming more tranquil – with the goal of reducing overall stress.“People are overstressed,” says Susan Waddell, a licensed interior designer for Winter Haven-based Renditions. “Usually you’re going there andyou have worries on your mind. They’ve got to find a way to bring the emotions down a little bit.”
“We’re also seeing lean design,” says Paul Macheske,associate principal and director of Healthcare Design for Orlando’s HuntonBrady Architects, explaining lean designs result in ongoing savings by reducing operation costs. But lean design is more than bricks and mortar. “There is an operational commitment to make sure when a patient comes in the door that a physician is available to provide that rapid assessment,” Macheske says.
Themes often focus on nature. “It could be any part of nature. They’re not just focusing on the green trees and the green grasses. They’re going to the beaches and the waterways, anything with nature,” Waddell explains.
Some design changes are costly, but others are achieved with a coat of paint. “Green is the color. The blues are soothing, yes, but green is really the optimum color,” Waddell says.
Chalkboard or whiteboard paint turns the walls into art canvases or message boards. Water and music may be utilized for their soothing properties. Children’s interactive games may be nailed into the walls.
A 2008 Healthcare Leadership White Paper, originally published in the Health Environments Research and Design Journal,linked design strategies like single-bed rooms, nature distractions, daylight, improved floor layouts and work setting swith patient safety and healing. Throughout Central Florida, new and renovated buildings are making medical facilities more comfortable and patient-friendly.
At the new Neymours Children’s Hospital,moms and dads – many with chronically ill children –provided input into the building design. The $397 million facility,which opened October 22 in the Orlando area, includes a one-acre Discovery Garden. The 95-bed, 630,000-square-foot hospital is on a 60-acre site in Lake Nona Medical City.
Staff Architect Michael Cluff says the building’s small footprint reduces the typical confusion and anxiety present when a child visits the hospital. Inpatient, outpatient, and rehabilitative services are conveniently placed together on one floor, minimizing travel between services, says Cluff. One of its two rooftop gardens is an extension of its outpatient waiting room, offering parents a relaxing area where they still can be contacted on hospital pagers. “Every floor has areas of green and blue paint, a splash of another color in nature,” Cluff adds.
Single-family patient rooms feature sleeper daybeds allowing two people to spend the night. Windows were strategically placed to maximize the outside view, Cluff says.Digital signs notify visitors not to disturb sleeping patients, or alert them about latex allergies or dietary requirements. Washers and driers are on every floor, and playrooms are available for patients who are strong enough. In the parking garage, five free-of-charge electrical plug-ins are available to recharge electric cars.
At the 83-bed Florida Hospital Wesley Chapel, which opened October 1, the hospital utilizes a dual hallway system to separate patients from visitors, protecting them from contagions while preserving privacy. Hallway lights are positioned on the sides rather than overhead so patients don’t have lights glaring in their eyes when being transported on gurneys.
The modern design streamlines the emergency room operation with bedside registration and medical evaluation. A specially designed Philips Ambient Experience environment promotes healing, reducing stress, and soothing patients and families. An interactive waiting room for children distracts them with a 900-gallon reef aquarium provided in partnership with The Florida Aquarium in Tampa. And through its GetWellNetwork, patients can research and watch videos on their conditions in their rooms. “When we built this building from scratch we had an incredible opportunity to be very intentional, to build an environment that is a healing environment,”says Tracy Clouser,the hospital’s marketing director.“People say it looks more like a hotel than a hospital.”
The Emergency Room waiting room appeals to families with comfy furniture in small groupings, rather than institutional-style chairs. Healing gardens are positioned between the three wings. “Every patient has a view of some kind of nature,” Clouser adds. The facilities include lean closets allowing staff members to drop off linens and towels without entering the room.
Meanwhile, other facilities like Lakeland Regional Medical Center and Florida Hospital Tampa are incorporating similar design changes during renovation. Particular attention is being placed on the emergency rooms, frequently the front door for patients.
At Lakeland Regional,wait times in the Emergency Room have been reduced to 30 minutes to see a doctor after renovations were completed last summer in waiting, reservation, and triage areas. Sherrie Long, the hospital’s director of strategic planning and community, says the upgrade was a “major factor in reduced waiting times.” The design is intended to improve team collaboration through a pod that groups physicians and caregivers, says Meghan Faulkner, project director with Edmonton, Canada-based Stantec. A more soothing color palate was used, including neutral Earth tones, she says.
A new pediatric area helps reduce stress for parents and children with individual gaming stations, Long points out. “It’s pretty cool,” she says. “Now the parents have to make the kids leave that area.”
Another newly renovated area is a lobby designed around a café. “It’s a nice place for us to mix. We actually are integrated with patients and the patients families,” Long says. As imaging equipment is replaced, the areas will be upgraded with improved lighting for a more spa-like, calming environment, Faulkner adds.
At Florida Hospital Tampa, a $53 million upgrade includes a new full-service adult and pediatric Emergency Department slated to open this winter. The upgrade positions the emergency area closer to cardiac and surgical services, Macheske says. The new Emergency Department will feature 48 private treatment rooms accommodating families, with separate pediatric waiting rooms and the new stress-reducing Philips Ambient Experience Technology. Ambient Experience involves projecting screen images and movies onto the wall, with light, sound, and visuals working together to distract, says Christopher Dunlop,an associate and project manager for HuntonBrady Architects.
A new Women’s Center entrance and lobby is slated for completion next summer, offering a security check-in for visitors and a lobby with a new chapel, Internet café/coffee shop, gift shop, library, and conference rooms for patient education. Other amenities will include a healing garden, renovated outdoor dining and complimentary Wi-Fi service.
As consumers become more technology savvy,medical facilities are adapting to improve the patient experience with benefits such as laptops and flat screens in patients’ rooms, all the while keeping them connected to nature through the use of color, light, and structural design to reduce stress.“It’s a good thing,” Waddell observes. “It’s working. It’s helping people.”
story by Cheryl Rogers

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