Mental health is an integral part of an individual’s overall well-being, especially in a clinical setting. For example, health check-ups, doctor’s appointments, or even visiting loved ones in the hospital can trigger stress and anxiety, increasing the risk of mental health disorders. Several studies have also shown that patients in clinical settings have an increased susceptibility to mental health disorders due to the increased stress induced in the clinical environment. Additionally, data from the World Health Organization suggests that one in five people in India suffer from a mental health disorder. As we become more culturally liberal and let go of the social stigmas associated with mental health, there is growing awareness, recognition and acceptance of behavioral health disorders as normal and treatable conditions. .
Today, design for mental health is no longer limited to facilities serving patients with mental disorders. Health care planners have also begun to adopt planning strategies and design elements that are particularly effective in responding to patients with even some degree of behavioral health disorder. Therefore, we have seen a rational shift in healthcare design in which we emphasize how strategies and design elements work and interact with users rather than how they look. Healthcare architects and designers have also begun to recognize mental health as a crucial part of a person’s overall health. Therefore, hospital planning is perfectly guided by a “patient and caregiver” centered approach that attempts to reduce stress.
The most appropriate way to improve the patient experience is through neuroscience. It is imperative to understand a patient’s state of mind, which is usually susceptible to high levels of stress. Patients in a hospital experience stress from many causes: invasions of privacy, no control over noise, acute or chronic pain, separation from family and familiar things, feelings of helplessness, worry about medical bills , insurance coverage and loss of control over events and the immediate environment.
Spatial layout, guided by evidence-based design, can be planned to maximize natural light exposure for all patients and caregivers and position related features such as circulation cores in areas that receive comparatively less daylight. Another strategy that has been shown to be effective in harnessing the potential of these healing spaces, thanks to studies validating this stress reduction strategy, is to build positive distractions by amplifying views of nature and scenic areas, or something. as simple as nature-themed artwork in all patient and staff areas. This principle allows convenience and accessibility for patients with a basic sense of comfort. Healing spaces create a positive, stress-free and calming environment for patients, loved ones and caregivers.
More importantly, flexibility and choice help patients gain some degree of control over what is supposed to be taken away from patients in a hospital. Studies show that small design interventions such as public and private waiting areas, the ability to sit in high or lounge chairs, etc., have positively improved the patient experience. Reducing stress has been shown to boost recovery rates, improve patient compliance with medications and medication regimens, and minimize postoperative pain and adverse effects on the immune system.
With several such studies and design principles available to suggest positive patient impacts through improved patient experience, a patient-centered approach is what drives healthcare design at CDA. Health facilities are no longer limited to simple buildings to house equipment intended to treat ailments and diseases. The impetus in healthcare today is to restructure and create healing environments for patients and to provide holistic wellness. A few fundamental changes in our approach to mental health, design and architecture can lead the healthcare industry towards a safer environment – for the mental and physical health of the patient.
Ravideep Singh, Associate Director, Creative Designer Architects