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Does the physical environment of the hospital matter?

A well-designed hospital can have positive clinical outcomes and patient satisfaction that outlines a better quality of care. The physical environment plays an important role in promoting health and well-being for patients and providing supportive workplaces for staff in healthcare settings. To achieve expected results in healthcare, design decisions should be based on the best available knowledge from research and practice together with an evaluation of existing buildings, a process known as evidence-based design. To ensure that hospital environments will support care activities and contribute to expected results such as improved physical and cognitive functions in patients, the user perspective is crucial. 

The physical environment is an important component of person-cantered care and has considerable potential to help meet the needs of each individual and facilitate care processes. This article presents the importance of the physical environment in the hospital.

The physical environment of the hospital links patients’ and staff outcomes in four ways:

1) Reduce staff stress and fatigue 

2) Improve delivery care

3) Improve patient safety

4) Improve overall healthcare quality

Different factors are related to enhancing design such as noise absorption, single bedroom design, nature views, well-chosen colors & arts, and daylight access, along with a better way of finding design. These factors can reduce stress and pain, and enhance better quality of sleep and better recovery, which in turn reduce the length of stay and increase patient satisfaction. A few important physical factors which affect the hospital environment are discussed here:

Noise Absorption:

Acoustic comfort is strongly correlated with improving a patient’s condition; less noise can be correlated with fewer medical errors in terms of the process and patient safety. Moreover, noise can affect patient recovery as it increases the levels of stress and leads to negative clinical outcomes and then less chance for recovery. Higher noise can increase the need for oxygen support therapy by decreasing oxygen saturation and elevating blood pressure, besides increasing heart and breath rates. Noise also affects the quality and quantity of sleep. Most sources of noise are; therapeutic procedures, staff talking, staff erratic interruptions, and environmental noise which usually happens in multi-bedroom units.

Nature Views:

Artwork with nature images has a positive psychological impact on patients compared with abstract ones. Window views enhance less stress, less pain, better recovery, and shorter postoperative stay, along with less relief drug intake. Viewing nature was also correlated with more positive clinical outcomes such as low blood pressure and low pulse rates and reduction of anxiety and pain. Moreover, access to daylight has proved its effectiveness for getting better clinical outcomes. Bright sunlight has a positive impact as an antidepressant effect on winter depression. Sunny rooms lead to shorter stays compared with dim rooms. High illuminance in the morning has a better impact on patients compared with afternoon light; morning light is two times better and more effective.

Hospital gardens have great positive impacts on patients, staff, and visitors as well. Gardens can mitigate pains and reduce stress along with increased satisfaction of patients, staff, and visitors. It can contribute positively to treating some disorders such as dementia. Hospital gardens and viewing nature can also enhance social support, better communication, and reduction of staff stress.

Well-chosen Colors:

As for the effect of colors and balanced colors play a major role in promoting well -the being of staff and patients, and affecting the recovery rates and staff morale. The selection of colors should go beyond an atheistic attractive design; it should be more patient-focused for better comfort and supportive factor of the healing process. Using green has proven its effectiveness in stress relief compared with other colors like orange. Orange stimulates appetite and it is a good option to treat people with anorexia. However, it should be avoided in patient’s rooms with intensive psychological conditions as it stimulates mental activity. Intensive care units should follow calming and restful colors while using green and blue is recommended in the operation rooms to counteract the effect on the eye.

Key takeaway:

In recent years, the effects of the physical environment on the healing process and well-being have proved to be increasingly relevant for patients and as well as for healthcare staff. Built environment design aspects such as audio environment and visual environment had a positive influence on patients’ health outcomes. Specifically decreases patients’ anxiety, pain, and stress levels as well as improves delivery of work of healthcare staff, when exposed to certain built environment design.

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