What is health? Psychology Today maintains that it’s more than the dictionary definition of the absence of disease or infirmity; healthy living includes lifestyle choices that support your physical, mental, spiritual, and emotional well-being. Today, integrating health and wellness in healthcare facility design is the goal of many of the nation’s leading healthcare facility design build experts. When our nation’s medical care system embraced health and wellness as a core value, many benefits were realized including workers who took fewer sick days, reduced medical expenses, greater workplace satisfaction, and increased employee retention. Today, it is an almost universally held belief that the healthcare system in America should be in the business of promoting overall health and vitality, not just treating or preventing disease. After all, what helps us stay well also helps us recover from an illness. To that end, an increasing number of hospitals are changing the way they look at – and handle – a patient’s recovery during a hospital stay.
TRENDS IN HEALTH & WELLNESS IN HEALTHCARE
One area where we can see health and wellness in healthcare facility design coming to fruition is in today’s hospitals. Sound-dampening materials are being used in hospital flooring and ceiling design, lighting systems that can be dimmed or brightened are becoming more common, and practices are evolving. Some of the improvements being made in hospital procedures involve changing the physical environment of individual patient rooms to help promote rest:
- If you’ve ever spent any time in a hospital, you may have experienced nightly vital sign checks that woke you from sleep and made it difficult to fall asleep again. Although checking vital signs every four hours has been the standard of care for more than 100 years, there’s no clinical proof that this practice helps improve a patient’s health status, and in fact, these nightly checks have been noted to have negative effects and increase patients’ stress levels.
- The typical solution of giving a patient pain medication to induce sleep is changing, also, partially due to the rising opioid epidemic. Some healthcare facilities are now using more natural sleep aids such as herbal teas and aromatherapy to induce sleep.
Incorporating health and wellness in healthcare facility design means building “healthy” buildings that promote comfort, wellness, and the overall health of occupants. It also includes designing and constructing innovative healthcare facilities that include elements such as kitchens where a patient can learn how to prepare healthy food, exercise areas that encourage increased physical activity, easy access to outdoor areas, interactive playgrounds for children, and spaces that promote inner peace and restfulness such as healing gardens and resting alcoves.
Being healthy is, indeed, much more than simply not being sick, and by changing the paradigm of healthcare facility design and construction, we can help people who don’t feel well recover faster, experience fewer complications, lower treatment costs, and enjoy an improved quality of life.