Welcome to a New Era in Hospital Design

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July 20, 2020



By Scott McFadden

For the past few decades, those of us who design, build, and operate healthcare spaces worked hard to reshape the public perception of hospitals and healthcare facilities. We softened forbidding, fortress-like institutions into warm, welcoming places. We introduced views to nature, flooded spaces with daylight, and incorporated natural regional materials. We created large, open lobbies and family areas for people to gather during their most vulnerable times.

People responded to these changes feeling more at ease, secure, and confident about the quality of care for themselves and their loved ones. They felt good settling into a big couch in a hotel-like lobby surrounded by other people, grabbing a cappuccino in a coffee shop, or having lunch in a café. We learned that these spaces literally contributed to the healing that took place within the hospital’s walls and helped to reduce the time that healing takes.

Now I see that perspective change through the lens of the COVID-19 pandemic. The profound impact of this event imbues an altered perception of healthcare facilities. Many of us probably now see hospitals as unsafe destinations of last resort … places where, once you go in, you might not come out.

We cannot change that COVID-19 perception completely with design. Still, those of us who create these spaces need to reassure people who enter hospitals that these places help sick people get well, and assist healthy people maintain their well-being using medically prescribed health practices. Furthermore, we need to make certain that people feel safe visiting patients. We need to ensure that hospital staffers feel they work in safe, comfortable, and desirable places.

Welcome to a New Era in Hospital Design