Design Choices for a Medical Building That Improve Patient Experience

Modern architects and interior designers are constantly looking for ways to improve the quality of life of their end-users. This concern is intensified when designing medical buildings, as a positive patient experience can help aid in recovery, mental health, and long-term wellbeing. Whether designing a medical office building or a patient care facility, the following are some trending design choices for medical buildings that improve the patient experience. 

Organic Appearance

Medical buildings are traditionally thought of as gray, drab, multi-story behemoths. Research indicates that this is not a great look for enhancing patient health, as high-rise buildings typical of medical facilities in urban districts are shown to increase feelings of depression and anxiety.

Therefore, to put patients at ease, it is best to design a medical facility with a more organic appearance that blends in with the surrounding environment. Aim for softer shapes and earthy colors that can help the facility mesh with trees, shrubbery, and any other natural elements nearby. Patients will look forward to medical visits more if they experience a sense of free-flowing movement in a facility that is not conspicuously sequestered from its environment. 

Ample Natural Sunlight

There are many known benefits to leveraging natural light in architecture. One of these benefits is to create an open and inviting ambience that helps improve tenants’ mental health–a positive that is especially important in the design of medical buildings. 

Natural light has many important healing and regenerative effects. It helps regulate the body’s circadian rhythms, which control the human sleep cycle and play an important role in body temperature, emotional health, heart function, and other bodily functions central to the healing process. Natural light in medical facilities can help reduce the length of in-patient stays, expedite the rate of post-operative recovery, and help facilitate pain relief in patients, as 22% of patients report needing fewer pain medications in well-lit rooms. 

Therefore, when designing a medical building, it is important to install large windows and skylights to allow sufficient entry points for sunlight. On the building’s interior, consider the benefits of glass walls and pocket doors to keep light flowing throughout the facility. 

Sustainable and Energy Efficient

A primary concern in contemporary design is to create sustainable and energy-efficient structures–a trend with a strong presence in the design of medical offices and patient care facilities.

Energy-efficient facilities that reduce the reliance on the HVAC system can help ensure air quality, as many pollutants, allergens, and toxic bodies can get circulated through old or inefficient HVAC ducts. Some ways to slash heating and cooling needs in a medical building and get energy consumption down to net-zero include installing flat roof insulation, commercial radiant floor heating systems, and ICF framing.

In addition, choosing sustainable materials that are durable and long-lasting can help improve the patient experience, as frequent maintenance, upkeep, and renovation can introduce toxins to the facility and disrupt patients’ comfort. Some extremely durable materials that can help ensure a sustainable medical building include polished concrete flooring, metal lap siding, and EPDM roofing membrane. 

Easily Accessible

Healthcare facilities and medical buildings play a critical role in the community and must be designed in a way that ensures equitable access to all citizens, regardless of age or physical impairment. In addition to being constructed in areas in close proximity to public transportation, medical buildings should have the following features, at a minimum:

  • Secure bike stands, clear sidewalks, and parking areas in good condition, with plentiful handicap spaces and patient drop-off points
  • Ramps and automatic doors for ADA compliance
  • Durable handrails and bathroom fixtures that are easy to clean and sanitize
  • Hard interior flooring, such as epoxy terrazzo, that can withstand heavy wheelchair, cart, and motorized vehicle traffic

Open Interiors with Clean Lines

As mentioned, open interiors can play a critical role in allowing natural sunlight to flow freely through a building–a feature that can do wonders for improving patient wellbeing. In addition, having open interiors also fosters a sense of goodwill in visitors and community members, reducing some of the negative stigmas that traditionally accompany a trip to a medical facility. This can turn a medical building into a type of neighborhood hub and encourage community members to seek medical attention when necessary.

Furthermore, well-designed medical facilities are devoid of clutter to help reduce negative sensations associated with confinement. Therefore, instead of using walls and curtains to delineate boundaries, create clean lines and aesthetic spacing by creatively mixing up colors and textures on the walls and employing decorative drop ceiling panels in place of traditional sound insulation.

Improve Patient Experience with Innovative Medical Building Design

When designing medical buildings, it is important to keep patient experience in mind, as a positive patient experience can play a critical role in recovery. Design choices such as organic appearance, ample natural sunlight, sustainable and energy-efficient, easily accessible, and open interiors with clean lines are a few of the ideas that designers can employ to improve patient experience in a medical building. 

Natalie Akins is an editor for the Innovative Building Materials blog and a content writer for the building materials industry. She is focused on helping fellow homeowners, contractors, and architects discover materials and methods of construction that save money, improve energy efficiency, and increase property value. 

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