Hospitals should be designed for holistic healing not just sickness
31 January 2007
Hospitals and other health-care facilities will look more like hotels or
resorts to give a holistic environment, and less like the institutional,
often inconveniently designed buildings of today, says a Purdue University
"Hospitals used to be stiff environments, but in the last decade or so,
that has all changed," says Gregory Lasker, an assistant professor of
building construction management. "Today consumers, as well as health-care
professionals, are more informed and interested in how a holistic
environment promotes healing. When you know better, you start to demand
Lasker, who heads Purdue's health-care construction management program,
is the former owner of his own construction company. He said a good example
of what hospitals are beginning to look like can be found in the
Indianapolis suburb of Carmel, Ind.
Clarian North Medical Center features private rooms; dedicated pavilions
for women, children and specialty surgery; an attached medical office
building; comfortable waiting-room chairs similar to what might be found in
a residence; and greenery and a glass-covered atrium, much like a shopping
"The changes have come about because there has been a big push toward
what is known as evidence-based design," Lasker says. "In the past couple of
decades, more research has been focused on finding out if hospitals are the
best, most efficiently designed that they can be and, in most cases, that
answer has been no."
He says that years before a facility is built, meetings are held
involving contractors, designers, doctors, nurses and hospital
administrators so that everyone has a say in how that building is
For instance, Lasker says it's important that the emergency room and
neonatal areas are located next to the operating room and that nurses'
stations are positioned near patient rooms. In facilities built decades ago,
that wasn't always the case.
"A lot of this is just basic common sense, but it also makes sense
financially," he says. "This idea stems from lean manufacturing, where the
focus is on minimizing waste, both in terms of cost and in the way space is
One of the biggest changes in recently constructed hospitals is the shift
to private rooms. "Today, all facilities are being built with single-patient
rooms," he says. "There are two reasons for this: One, the stricter privacy
laws. Two, most patients today have family or friends who visit or stay with
them, and this gives them more space and privacy."
Other trends in hospital construction include decorating with soothing
colours, playing relaxing music, as well as including meditation gardens in
the building design.
"Owners are moving toward a more aesthetically pleasing environment that
contributes to the process of healing. In this day and age, there's nothing
about the planning, design, and construction process that is an accident."