Last Wednesday my husband and I visited the N.C. Memorial Hospital, located in Chapel Hill, where a family member had been admitted. Now, let’s be honest . . . No one likes getting a call that a family member is in the hospital. No one. There is a lump in your throat and your heart literally falls into your stomach.
Ask anyone about how they feel about hospitals and generally most will say that they are grateful for them when they or their family needs them but don’t necessarily want to go because hospitals are traditionally thought of as depressing. They can be “dark and somber with a high school gym paint job.”Great design in healthcare does not regularly get the praise and attention of say, a well appointed home that is Pinned, blogged about, Tweeted and Facebooked. I said as much to my husband as we waited in the sun drenched lobby for a family member to join us.
I have to say that the UNC Hospitals, which have been “named one of the 65 best in the United States, based on results from the Leapfrog Hospital Quality and Safety Survey”, is beautiful by my own hospital standards. (My Father was a WWII vet and frequented VA Hospitals and my Mother was a Nurse.)
I was admiring the tall potted palms, wide glass hall and art work when I remembered an article I read about how our environment has a direct impact on our well being. But let’s be realistic . . . it is a sad reality that many cities across the U.S. don’t have the budget to expand, much less remodel an entire aging healthcare facility. And so they are left with dark corridors, a bad color scheme and art that looks like it came straight from a derelict motel.
The article, Effects of Healthcare Environmental Design on Medical Outcomes by Roger S. Ulrich, Ph.D. [PDF] offered this take away : “the quality of the design of physical environments can affect patient medical outcomes and care quality. An important impetus for the growing international awareness of healthcare facility design has been mounting scientific evidence that certain environmental design strategies can promote improved outcomes whereas other approaches can worsen patient health.”
In this 2011 Healthcare Design Magazine article, Art and Mental Health, it states that “It is estimated that by the end of the decade, close to $60 billion will be spent on healthcare construction, which implies that close to $300 million will be spent on art in healthcare.”
Now to be fair, not everyone agrees that spending 300 million on art in healthcare is worth it when there are so many more programs that any given community needs.
To that point I offer you this thought to ponder : Good design impacts more than just the patient. It has far reaching effects on the medical staff as well as the family by each bedside. Something as simple as a window can offer more hope than a wall mounted TV ever will.
This article has an interesting section on Photobiology or “light therapy” which shares that “These findings, among others, led an international committee to conclude that the daily light dose received by people in industrialized societies might be too low for good mental health (CIE 2004)”
Seems pretty straight forward right? The environment plays a role in your well being, recovery time and can positively influence your care givers.
That, to me, is worth any price.
What do you think? Be sure to leave a comment below, I want to hear your thoughts on this.
–For designers who may be reading this here are some awards that celebrate good design :
Vast list of Industrial Design Awards