Healthcare On the Mind


By Angela Crum, IIDA, LEED AP, ICGB, RID

As things rapidly change, trends that have been in place for decades are no more. For the past 25 years, the healthcare design industry has followed hospitality tendencies. Today, the current trends are shifting and centered around wellness and patient-focused care. Designers are changing gears, to say the least.

Lankenau Medical Center Patient Pavilion for Heart, Vascular, & Lung Care

Waiting areas across all sectors are shrinking as the user experience gains steam. In healthcare, more efficient processes are being implemented to reduce wait time, so less space is needed. This doesn’t mean patients lose access to top-of-the-line amenities, though. With wireless charging like the Dupont Corian Charging Surface, users can seamlessly charge their laptops, iPads and other electronics while they wait. Most devices will need to play catchup in order for this technology to work across all platforms, but don’t be surprised when wall mount charging becomes a thing of the past.

We know wireless charging will make life easier, but tech companies have even more in store for 2019. They’re joining forces with furniture manufacturers to develop intelligent furniture. These pieces can collect data to show consumers their real-time health status and educate individuals on habits that impact their wellbeing. A recliner that can monitor the user’s blood pressure, heart rate, breathing, weight and body temperature can improve one’s healthcare experience. Results can be read in real time by caregivers or be used to alert staff in the case of inconsistent data, signaling a potential issue.

Virtual reality is also not to be forgotten as we head into the new year. It’s still relatively new in the design world but has big implications for the future. CallisonRTKL recently worked with William P. Clements Jr. University Hospital at UT Southwestern Medical Center (UTSW) and Dell on virtual reality exercises with operating room concepts. Users were able to move objects around and talk through the design process. This technology is not only innovative, but cuts future design costs, too. 

Virtual Reality Healthcare
William P. Clements Jr. University Hospital at UT Southwestern Medical Center, Dallas, Texas

Studies show that the data collected from these occupiable devices and even wearable pieces like the Fit Bit are influencing how we work and interact with our environments. As designers, it’s our responsibility to pay more attention to the consumer. They are more educated and socially responsible than ever before and are selective about where they spend their time and money, and how they manage their day-to-day health.

Vertical Tech

Art and signage are no longer static, wall-mounted pieces within a building, but are thoughtfully designed and strategically implemented to provide ease of navigation. Through integration and interactive experiences, wayfinding does more than point patrons in the right direction. UTSW in Dallas has kiosks where visitors can send a note to a loved one, and it appears on the TV in the patient’s room. This allows family and friends to stay connected and show their support at all times. At Lankenau Medical Center just outside Philadelphia, CRTKL designed an interactive donor wall for family and friends to make donations to the hospital via text, as well as leave a message for a loved one. The messages populate on a life-sized wall in the lobby.

Beyond the tech upgrades, studies show healthcare settings should continue to provide access to natural elements to improve the wellness of patients, staff and family. With the upkeep and possible source of infection from keeping live plants indoors, many facilities are turning to other alternatives. Newer technologies are creating photorealistic imagery or digital displays that capture the same effect.

In commercial and workplace settings, we are seeing an increase in maintenance-free green walls to provide the same impact on its occupants. Preserved moss is arranged in unique installations, providing the benefits of natural textures and aesthetics without the cost or maintenance.

It’s Written in The Materials

There has been a lot of talk about how the workplace is changing and where it’s headed, but the materials within the workplace are often overlooked. We know companies are providing flexible spaces, varied seating options, recreation areas and gourmet food choices, but the details are in the materials that bring these spaces to life. Using durable materials and green products are important, as well as considering the full lifecycle of a material and how it affects a space.

Monitors and displays in hospital rooms

The materials that make up our built environment have a significant impact on our health through color considerations, acoustics, lighting, air quality, flexibility and user-driven control. Recently, a few products have come to market to address these growing needs.

Companies like Arktura are pushing the limits on acoustic ceiling design, bringing new life to the ceiling tile scene. They’re partially made of recyclable materials and can be intelligently designed and placed to bounce and absorb sound based on the needs of a specific user.

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Steelcase recently released the Gesture chair, an innovative task chair that has sensors integrated within the seat to monitor all aspects of how a user occupies the chair. The data collected can display current stress levels and recommendations can be provided to better the user’s life. The company also created the Brody desk, which gives the vibe of sitting in first class on an airplane but in the privacy of your own work environment. All the niceties are implemented for comfort and ease of connectivity, ultimately improving productivity.

Down the Road

As disruptors pop up, we as designers need to assist our clients in creating cohesive and flexible designs. Enhancing the trend of empowering the individual is essential, and this includes using adaptable materials and furniture that supports collaboration and new technology integration.

We know wellbeing and overall health awareness is on the rise, but the challenge may be finding what suits your needs. It’s an unpaved path that many companies are heading down: marrying technology, sustainability and furniture. With unknown variables knocking at the door, we’re optimistic about 2019 being a year chock-full of innovative solutions.

Angela Crum, Senior Associate with CallisonRTKL's Healthcare DallasAngela Crum is a senior associate with CallisonRTKL’s Healthcare Dallas studio with experience in planning and designing healthcare interiors.

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