When designing healthcare spaces to foster wellness, you should first understand the particular patient illness being served and then determine that population’s fundamental needs.
“Providers who serve patients with rheumatoid conditions should identify the range of clinical presentations specific to their patient population,” advises Sharon E. Woodworth, AIA, ACHA, EDAC, Healthcare Practice Leader, Perkins+Will Architects, San Francisco, Calif., who refers to this concept as patient-population-based design.1 “Support your patients’ illnesses with environmental features [that] maximize that particular population’s highest level of wellness; in turn, this honors the patient’s condition and, ultimately, instills trust in his or her provider’s care and treatment plan.”
For example, a rheumatologist who primarily sees osteoarthritis patients with joint pain from wear and tear may consider a different office design than a provider who primarily cares for pediatric patients who present with joint pain associated with lupus.
A rheumatology practice’s ambiance should convey a feeling of comfort, with soothing expressions found in spas or luxury hotel rooms, such as soft colors, subdued decor, carpeted flooring and indirect lighting, Ms. Woodworth says.
Nathan Wei, MD, FACP, FACR, practice owner and rheumatologist, Arthritis Treatment Center, Frederick, Md., says colors convey different images. “Avoid bright, startling colors; an angry orange or red can make a patient feel worse,” he says, noting that his practice features a mauve and teal theme.
Select furniture with great care. “Furnishings should provide support for patients who have difficulty or discomfort with overly soft seating,” Ms. Woodworth says. “Then arrange it in protected alcoves so the lupus patient, who may be immunosuppressed, can have private seating away from direct sunlight—which can cause a flare.”
Dr. Wei says chairs and couches should have relatively high arms and seats so patients can get up as easily as possible. On the walls, he hangs mounted posters from sessions he has presented at scientific meetings. “This conveys a sense of authority and expertise,” he says.
Kathleen Roberts, manager, Pain Therapy Associates Ltd., Schaumburg, Ill., says the office features warm, soothing tans and blues, which help to put patients’ minds at ease. Modern furnishings include an open horseshoe-shaped front desk and comfy upholstered chairs with coffee tables in the waiting room. “This makes it more inviting and not sterile, like most practices,” she says.
Dr. Wei, who refers to the waiting area as the welcome area, says windows don’t divide reception staff from the welcome area. “We don’t refer to it as a waiting room,” he adds, “because people don’t like waiting. And our patients rarely wait; they are seen right on time, sometimes even early.”
Appeal to the Senses
Music is a proven source of healing in healthcare environments. “For rheumatoid patients either experiencing pain or concerned about