The pandemic has truly changed every area of our lives—the way we live, work, rest, and exercise. But perhaps the biggest shifts are happening in the medical and healthcare industry when physicians and researchers have to work closely with architects and interior designers to make hospital and clinic designs pandemic-friendly.
While it’s true that the pandemic will not last forever, COVID-19 is not the last one we will have to contend with. If you are opening a hospital or clinic in the foreseeable future, here are some post-pandemic design trends to keep in mind.
Architectural and technological integration
When before, we could all interact face-to-face freely and without a care in the world. We can’t do so now, especially in places where sanitation is paramount—like a hospital or a clinic. Moving forward, designers and hospital boards will have to come up with ways to limit face-to-face interaction among patients and healthcare staff, and interior design and technology will play a big part in this change.
Since limiting the time we spend in enclosed spaces is just as vital as ensuring that we don’t enter crowded areas, self-rooming and self-checking-in technologies will rise in popularity among healthcare facilities. As early as 2016, these electronic self-check-in tools have already been championed in many locations, with varying degrees of success. But the COVID-19 pandemic has escalated the need for these tools in record time, with healthcare staff having to find ways to give patients the opportunity to check-in for their booked appointments through a computer screen.
As time goes on, this tool will be more of the norm, and while it takes away from interpersonal relationships and the warmth that patients may experience from speaking with nurses and other healthcare staff, it’s a shift that we have to live with as long as the threat of COVID-19 exists.
Revolutionized common areas
Another aspect that interior designers and architects will have to rethink is the rooms and spaces intended for healthcare staff to rest and sleep in. Before COVID-19, these common areas and shared break rooms were larger in dimension to provide more spaces for as many staff members as possible, but this design might soon be replaced with smaller and more spread-out rooms.
Simultaneously, hospital workers who don’t need to be on-site, like administrative officers, might have to keep working from home to prevent heavy foot traffic in hospitals and clinics, especially during peak hours. These crucial adjustments will go a long way in limiting the volume of people in enclosed spaces at any given time.
Making spaces more adaptable and flexible
Just like adaptability and flexibility have become buzzwords for the business world, so they will be in the world of healthcare and medical design. If the pandemic has taught the healthcare industry and the world anything, it’s that even the most state-of-the-art hospitals are not the most equipped to handle urgent challenges that come with unprecedented pandemics like this one. We know now that the state of healthcare can change overnight as new diseases and viruses emerge.
This is why moving forward, architects and interior designers need to find ways to make hospitals and clinics easily adjustable and multi-functional. Multipurpose and flexible spaces will be the name of the game as design elements like mobile workstations, shell rooms, and prefabricated walls take center stage to allow healthcare staff to move things around when they need clear spaces. Quality medical theater lights, beds, tables, and other necessities will also be portable so that rooms can be easily transformed at any given moment.
Biophilic design is simply the art and science of bringing the outdoors indoors. Multiple studies found the healing properties of being around and simply seeing greenery, so a focus on natural light through the use of floor-to-ceiling windows, skylights, and glass walls will be a good first step. Design elements like vegetation and water features will also provide a level of natural tranquility that will be beneficial for patients mentally, emotionally, and physically.
For hospitals and clinics where adding plants is not an option, going for colors that evoke the same feeling can be a good, if less effective, alternative. This might entail using more earthy colors and tones or changing the light hues from cooler blues to warm yellows. Even realistic-looking murals or 3D wallpaper of plants can be a good alternative.
Throughout history, diseases have impacted how our buildings are designed, and hospitals and clinics should always be the first to adjust. With the right tools and design ideas, we might create a world where there is bed space for everyone who needs it during a pandemic.