Often ignored by front-rank architects, left to corporate specialists who churn out too many heartless buildings, hospitals are a critical frontier for design, for exterior design as shown in the photos included here, individual room layout, and overall hospital layout.
As an example of the impact of interior changes, after months of testing a new room layout at the University Medical Center of Princeton, patients in the model room rated food and nursing care higher than patients in the old rooms did, although the meals and care were the same.
Some innovations are logical and even seem obvious, and some do have their downside: patients in single rooms are likely to share more information with the medical staff more quickly than those in double rooms, so the Princeton plan opts solely for single rooms, though this increased the building’s overall size, thus forcing a larger separation between certain departments and thereby requiring new methods of internal communications. The new rooms include a sink positioned in plain sight, so nurses and doctors will be sure to wash their hands, and patients can watch them do so. A second sink is in the bathroom, which is next to the bed, a handrail linking bed and bathroom, so patients don’t have to travel far between them and will fall less often.
But the real eye-opener was this: Patients also asked for 30 percent less pain medication. Reduced pain has a cascade effect, hastening recovery and rehabilitation, leading to shorter stays and diminishing not just costs but also the chances for accidents and infections.
Health care is a trillion-dollar industry just discovering the medical and economic benefits of better design. “It’s a significant part of our G.D.P.,” noted Christopher Korsh, the principal architect on the Princeton project. “Patients now say they won’t come to a facility because they don’t like it, and if there’s a building that can save 2 percent on the cost of delivering health care, that’s huge. Plus good design really can make you better faster.” Read more…