Designing Healthcare Facilities to Reduce Anxiety and Stress

Human-centered design is a concept that prioritizes the needs of an individual and the healing process.

By Jeff Wardon, Jr., Assistant Editor


A core function of any healthcare facility is to provide care to patients, and their overall experience in that facility is tantamount to that care. Meaning if a patient is to receive quality care, the facility they receive it in must be of quality design. It is a synergistic relationship, where quality care and design work into each other to create a holistic patient experience. 

The key method to achieving this is through human-centered design, which places the individual needs of a patient at the forefront.  

“That is done by providing an environment first and foremost where people feel safe, secure and confident that they are going to receive the care that they need,” says Beverly Spencer, senior interior designer at FCArchitects.  “It all really starts at the front door and with that first impression. Patients need to feel that they are in the right place to receive the care for the specific needs that they have.” 

Any individual visiting a healthcare facility already has a certain level of stress. It is important to design the environment to help alleviate this anxiety, says Spencer. Some examples include clear and user-friendly wayfinding systems, reducing noise levels, minimizing odors and decreasing visual clutter. Spencer says that it can be anything that makes the space feel less clinical and more like home. 

Related Content: Acoustics Reduce Stress, Increase Productivity in Healthcare Staff

Sarah Harvey, senior interior designer – healthcare at FCArchitects, agrees, as all the noise, smells and visual clutter can distract a patient from their overall care.  

“The stress of the environment they are in needs to be minimized so that they can focus on and understand the information they are being told,” says Harvey. “All that clutter in a hospital can be a distractor to focusing on the information that you are given. Instead, create a space for them where they can concentrate and that helps them focus. Whatever we can do to help the environment almost disappear so they can focus on the healing process.” 

Another area to consider is including a space for family members to be in, Spencer says. This is especially true if these family members are going to be involved in the patient’s healing and ultimate recovery. It will also help the patient feel more at ease and focused with their visit.  

“It is so important to be close by to your loved one," says Spencer. “Also having staff nearby and having clear visibility really helps to address more specific needs of patients.” 

Additionally, it is worth noting that not all patients will have the same individual needs, and these can be addressed on a case-by-case basis. However, there is one unifying factor for all these patients: healing. 

“Every patient has a different need, but the one thing that they all have in common is that they all need to heal,” says Spencer. “We have enough evidence now that by implementing certain design elements we can make that process a little more bearable and help to achieve a more positive outcome.” 

Jeff Wardon, Jr. is the assistant editor for the facilities market. 



December 14, 2023


Topic Area: Interior Design


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