In healthcare settings, aesthetic considerations often took a backseat in favour of more utilitarian, clean environments that weren’t always inviting. Today’s healthcare facilities are rethinking this approach to interior aesthetics that provide comfort to patients.
For too long, hospitals, medical centres, and doctor’s offices have had a reputation for being cold utilitarian places that make their visitors feel uneasy. This image of a sterile, largely mechanical environment—sardonically known as clinical—often contributes to more than just a feeling of foreboding when visiting a healthcare facility. The less-than-pleasant environment may cause a lot of stress for patients and may make them hesitant to enter.
Rethinking this paradigm can offer more than just a reversal of a longstanding opinion. Making medical facilities less uninviting and more comfortable can surprisingly improve patient outcomes. Even doctor’s offices can benefit from adding a touch of colour and an attractive aesthetic to their offices, providing their patients with greater comfort when attending appointments.
Most hospital managers in the past strongly prefer the utilitarian aesthetics for the same reason that medical personnel preferred white coats; it represented sanitation. By choosing surfaces that were blank and relatively featureless, spots that could pose a potential for infection—which can become life-threatening in a hospital setting—can be spotted quickly and avoided.
The clinical approach also had other advantages. By spending very little time on appearances, healthcare institutions often spent less on things that, at the time, were not thought to have contributed significantly to patient outcomes. And for many parts of the healthcare profession, this made sense. Operating rooms only needed to get the job done, after all.
However, applying this utilitarian approach across entire facilities would have consequences for the quality of care. The consequences of choosing a largely clinical environment across all aspects of the medical profession had made medical offices uninviting places for patients, who would often have anxieties of entering. This often compounded people’s fears of entering medical settings.
Aesthetics can also have a surprising effect on patient outcomes. Strictly clinical environments can cause a lot of stress, which can affect the recovery times for patients. Moreover, most aesthetic flourishes seen in many offices are often brought in ad-hoc by the staff, which usually means clashing elements are placed into the facility.
Also, recent findings suggest that introducing patients to aesthetically appealing environments can help reduce stress and manage pre-treatment anxieties. One study has found that patients recovered much faster in the presence of a window with a view of trees than those that did not.
The interiors of businesses and other public spaces have since moved on from the drab and bland, with even the most basic of furnishings being more aesthetically attractive than they were a decade ago. Even hospitals and medical centres are slowly following suit, shifting away from the purely practical interiors of the past in favour of more inviting and colourful spaces. In some hospitals and medical centre fit outs today, patients can expect hotel-like recovery rooms and well-appointed common areas.
Besides making patients feel less anxious when entering and setting appointments, an inviting environment can help keep patients calm and relaxed throughout recovery. After all, improving comfort is part of maintaining quality care. Ultimately, healthcare facilities must strike a balance between functional, utilitarian environments with more attractive and appealing interior design to offer comfort and alleviate patient anxiety throughout their stay.