According to Barbara J. Huelat, AAHID, FASID, EDAC, principal of Healing Design, Alexandria, Va., the most important issue in health care interior design right now is infection protection. In the midst of the pandemic, facilities are seeking to reduce hospital-acquired infections, particularly as reimbursement for these events is being eliminated. Materials using nanotechnology and silver ion treatments, air filtration, humidity controls and technology that destroy bacteria are promising advances in this area, she says.
Single patient rooms, one of the most significant health care design developments of recent years, are believed to improve patient safety by reducing the chance of infection and promoting family involvement in patient care. Huelat says universal rooms, which are designed for every acuity level, are now heavily discussed as the COVID’s need for ICU’s. Since a patient can remain in a universal room even when his or her condition changes, this too, is expected to be shown a safer, more comfortable design for patients and their families.
The patient experience is becoming more important to design, especially as the large, vocal Baby Boomer population ages. “They just don’t put up with less than a good experience,” Huelat says. This is true even in rural areas, creating pressure on small, outdated community hospitals to make a big leap in terms of function and design, says Lewis.
Efficiency is another concern throughout health care. Nurses continue to be in short supply, and as the existing nursing staff gets older, lean design and reduced walking distances are ever more valuable. Heulat notes the resurgence of design ideas like the nurse server, a storage area accessible from both the patient room and the corridor. Although nurse servers fell out of favor because of the need to stock them individually, they are becoming popular again because they save valuable nursing time, she says.
Technology is another ongoing design challenge—“how to deal with it, where to put it, and how to make it look human,” Huelat says. Millwork, she notes, is becoming obsolete because it is inflexible in dealing with technological changes, such smaller scale and the wireless technology. She believes future technological developments will continue to have a major impact on design.
It sounds very futuristic. But the future, as the past 20 years have shown, has a way of coming on quickly.
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