New Trends in Healthcare Facility Design

Tuesday, November 4th, 2014
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Design trends in healthcare facilities are constantly evolving. There has been a huge push toward patient comfort over the past few years with the aim of changing stark, sterile facilities into comfortable and relaxing places for patients to heal.

Three modern trends making waves in healthcare design include the move toward making facilities feel more like residential establishments, space management, and detailed lighting design.

These trends are part of the push to create more needs-specific environments based around patient familiarity and comfort. Innovative design techniques help to create more peaceful places for patients, visitors and employees and to reduce the stress associated with hospitals and clinics.

Blurring the Lines Between Home and Hospital

Most newly designed healthcare facilities are paying particular attention to detail with regard to making patients feel a sense of residential warmth.

With mounting research showing the positive correlation between patient healing and the reduction of stress, designs are rapidly evolving to promote a feeling of familiarity and homeliness.

Modern designs often include a move from white interiors to an increased use of relaxing colours, matching furniture collections, artwork, natural light and noise reduction methods. All of these design aspects cater for the patient and aim to create a more inviting, friendly space more like that of a home.

Space Management

While it seems healthcare facilities often struggle to accommodate growing populations and increasing numbers of patients, they also need to consider in their designs the growing numbers of visitors, staff, and other caregivers.

Utlisation of space is an important aspect of modern design to make the most of small spaces while creating functional, comforting environments.

Flexibility of the furniture in patient rooms is integral in space management design. Multipurpose furniture is becoming more popular as it offers a variety of options, arrangements and sizes. Furniture with storage compartments underneath, side tables with electrical access and pull-out sofa beds are all effective ways of making the most of small spaces and making patient rooms feel more spacious for patients and staff.

hospital led lighting

The use of colour and LED lighting makes patient rooms feel more residential.


Lighting design can play an integral role in human health. Light impacts the ability to perform visual tasks, controls the body’s circadian system, enables critical chemical reactions in the body, reduces medical errors, and greatly affects mood.

Light requirements increase with age and several studies have shown that higher levels of light are linked with better performance of complex visual tasks, a requirement for most healthcare staff.

The use of natural light has gained unrivaled attention lately and has been linked with higher patient satisfaction and better staff productivity.

Benefits of Designs that Increase Daylight Exposure:

  • Decreased length of stay in hospital
  • Lessens stress and agitation
  • Eases pain
  • Improves staff members’ adjustment to nightshift work
  • Reduces depression dementia
  • Improves sleep and circadian rhythm

In patient rooms, lighting design is critical but challenging to implement correctly because requirements vary among patients and medical needs. Creating a flexible design with multiple zones of light is most beneficial.

The American Institute of Architects (AIA) Guidelines for Design and Construction of Hospitals and Health Care Facilities suggests patients should have some control over their own environment with access to lighting controls.

LED (light-emitting diode) nightlights should be included in patient room design and adjoining bathrooms with red or warm wavelengths preferred for low light, long life, and low energy consumption.

When compared to traditional florescent lighting, LED lights offer substantial energy savings. LED lighting also requires less maintenance, is physically smaller offering greater design flexibility.

Michael White, senior lighting designer at architectural lighting design firm Schuler Shook in Minneapolis said the quality of light and colour go a long way.

“An idea to consider is a day room space with enough brightness to be measured by the circadian system,” he said. “There’s great promise with LED sourcing – more lumens per watt – to provide the light levels suggested without increasing the cost.”

As designs evolve in response to changes in population, budgets, technology and patient well-being, certain aspects of the hospital or healthcare facility experience cannot be ignored. Aesthetically pleasing, home-like environments can be created while still maintaining a functional and safe place for staff to work.

The three design trends above all contribute to patient well-being and staff productivity while also making the experience of visiting healthcare facilities more enjoyable for family and friends.

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