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Design in Health Care: It's All In The Details

When you think of hospitals, what do you think of? Is it disease? Injury? Patients? Doctors? I don't think of any of those things, but instead, I think of the colors on the hospital walls. Ever since I was a child, my parents always said that I saw things differently. What they would see as just a building, I would see as a masterpiece. I would stare at the textured walls, the frames around the doors, even the light switches. It's the smallest of details that create a unique environment or work of art, sometimes in the most unlikely of places.

When it comes to hospitals, these details are everywhere - even though you may not see them. Mind you, many health care facilities don't partake in interior design aesthetics, but the ones that do give you a comforting sense of well-being. Since I started at pMD, I have been to my fair share of hospitals, fortunately for reasons other than a sick friend, relative, or even myself. There have been quite a few hospitals that have really surprised me and simply felt comforting. To me, this is what's important in an environment that can be hostile and alarming. You need comfort in order to recover.

The perfect example that comes to mind is Riley Hospital for Children at Indiana University Health. From the moment you step in the doors, you feel like you're in an art exhibit. It has a large, open lobby with colorful banners hanging from the ceiling, and a glass elevator at the center. That’s followed up by large, stuffed animals lining the room and a comfy seating area in the middle. I remember sitting there and looking at the entryway, seeing kids in red wagons being pulled by their parents, making their way into the building. Regardless of why they were there, they didn't look frightened or scared, but instead looked relaxed and if anything, excited. This was not a place to fear, but a place to feel at home.

Decor can have a huge effect on an environment, especially for children. So, are all children's hospitals like Riley? Not necessarily, but it is common for many to be stylized in a similar fashion. I have yet to be in a children's hospital that wasn't friendly. What about general hospitals? This is where the game changes. I have been in a number of nice, professional facilities, some of them reaching beyond Riley in terms of interior decor, while others lack interior decor entirely.

Our emotional well-being is just as important as our physical; we should always keep this in mind. From the perspective of a hospital or medical facility, it is especially important to remember this and make the patients and visitors feel comfortable. How do you do this? Well, it's all in the details.