Steve Ward & Associates Blog

Designing Medical Facilities that Improve the Patient Experience

[fa icon="calendar"] Oct 9, 2015 / by Andrew Ward


When designing and constructing any scientific, medical, or educational establishment, it’s important to achieve a balance between practical layout, streamlined usability, and great aesthetics. If done correctly, these elements will come together to create a truly effective space.

In the case of healthcare facilities in particular, it’s critical that the space be created with the patient as the primary focus. With the necessity of the medical treatment which occurs in these facilities, they historically have not been perceived as places of enjoyment or comfort.  However, it is still definitely possible to create environments which allow the staff to work efficiently while elevating the patient experience.

Accessibility is Paramount:

Strategic planning of a new healthcare facility (or renovation of an existing one) must take into consideration how each area of the space will be used. Traffic flow, visibility, infection control, security, and safety are all important details in this process. Knowing where high-congestion points might occur, at intake and in lobbies for example, will help create a strategy for infection control within the building and will allow for optimal use of signage, seating, and space.

At Owensboro Regional Medical Center, Steve Ward & Associates had the opportunity to assist the construction team designing and building patient rooms which allow families and visitors to sleep over on daybeds in the room as opposed to less desirable places, like public waiting rooms. In addition, we worked with the team to develop several nurse’s stations geared for quick access to both assistance and information. These were several of the features considered in an effort to increase the personal attention received by patients and their families.

Help the Professionals Do Their Jobs:

Complementary to creating a comfortable environment for patients and families is creating one that supports the needs of the doctors, nurses, and administrative staff. A usable space with outlets, tools, and easily accessible built-in storage can easily improve the efficiency of medical workers, freeing more of their time to care for patients.

In addition, using products which are quickly and easily maintained, like prefabricated headwalls and footwalls, also helps the staff to preserve efficiency and minimize interruptions in patient care.  Typically, these pre-engineered and prefabricated materials are customizable around each facility’s specific needs. In addition, these products can often be easily expanded and updated down the line. Some prefabricated headwalls and footwalls like the forWard® headwall system by Steve Ward & Associates will also serve to reduce noise and environmental stress due to its exceptional acoustical qualities. Suffice it to say that through effective planning during the design phase, patients are likely to receive greater attention in a more relaxed atmosphere, and medical staff are likely to be more engaged in the patient’s care.

Heal the Body, Feed the Eyes:

Integrating the necessary features of a healthcare facility doesn’t preclude adding aesthetic features to private rooms and common areas. SWA’s work with dozens of hospitals and medical centers has given us a wealth of experience in merging function and aesthetics.

At the University of Tennessee Medical Center, we built a custom circular shaped information desk with overhead halo lighting creating an eye-catching focal point which helps direct incoming patients and visitors alike. Bright pops of yellow and orange, with illuminated reception desks and hanging pendant lights at St. Vincent Fisher’s Hospital in Indiana keeps the décor fresh and contemporary. It’s also a worthy consideration to tailor your design to a distinct client base, especially when the facility caters specifically to that audience. For example, custom display cases, animal-themed nurse stations, and a donor wall adorned with spinning butterflies in the atrium of Monroe Carell Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, are perfectly suited to brighten the spirits of the children and families who visit each day.

In summation, medical facilities can improve the patient experience through careful planning and attention to detail. Whether it is new construction or a renovation, there are many critical aspects of the design which will impact patient satisfaction and are important to consider. An effective design serves to create a more pleasant experience for patients and their loved ones. Choosing materials and products which provide service, style, and adaptability will improve your design not only by delivering a modern, cutting edge healthcare facility, but also an aesthetically pleasing and user-friendly environment.

To see more examples of our work in the healthcare industry, visit our Products page and view our Healthcare Projects resume by clicking below.

Healthcare Résumé 

Topics: healthcare, headwall

Andrew Ward

Written by Andrew Ward