Helpful Hospital Aesthetics

The new trend in hospital design is to improve the building’s aesthetics for patient well-being. Natural lighting, artwork and updated furniture are replacing the dreary and bare hospital rooms of the past. The concept of using aesthetics to accelerated recovery is not new, and it doesn’t take a brain surgeon to understand the idea.

Florence Nightingale advocated the use of natural sunlight and soothing colors to create a relaxing setting that would encourage healing. Research has confirmed that Florence Nightingale was right. Patients in well-designed hospital rooms experience less anxiety, require less pain medication and have shorter hospital stays, according to The Center for Health Design, an organization of health care and design professionals that uses evidence-based research to develop standards for functional hospital designs.

The concept of hospital aesthetics is to create an environment that induces a sense of wellness and contains positive distractions. Positive distractions, such as beautiful artwork, give patients something to focus on, other than their pain or the discomfort from medical procedures. Visitors are also an important positive distraction for patients. Innovative hospital designs incorporate comfortable and attractive seating areas in hospital rooms to encourage families to stay for long visits.

There is little disagreement on the benefit of hospital aesthetics. There is however, uncertainty on the financial feasibility of newly designed hospital settings. An essay published in the January-February issue of  “The Hasting Center Report” stated that “carefully selected design innovations, though they may cost more initially, could return the incremental investment in one year by reducing operating costs and increasing revenues.” The essay was based an economic analysis of an imaginary hospital. There is not enough real-life evidence to make a determination on the financial feasibility of aesthetic hospital renovations, according to the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (ARHQ). The ARHQ reviewed numerous studies on hospital aesthetics and patient care outcome and concluded that although patients benefit from innovative hospital design settings, “controversy remains regarding whether the high cost of hospital design and construction outweighs the operational savings and increased revenues that may be generated from design innovations.”

One way to lower the cost of improving aesthetics is to incorporate more natural themes into hospital styles. This would also allow hospitals to potentially lower their energy costs, especially if they used energy reducing light fixtures and plants that encouraged increased air quality and circulation.

Patient opinions may determine the future of hospital design. People would rather receive medical treatment at a hospital that looks like a spa, than one that looks like a prison. As aesthetically pleasing designed hospitals become more available, it will become increasingly more difficult for outdated hospitals to compete. The future of hospital care will combine high-quality medical treatment with a peaceful and attractive environment.

By Meika Jensen

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