Designing for Holistic Healing in Healthcare

Creating a space for holistic health, or the community, means going beyond the basics of healthcare facility design.

By Jeff Wardon, Jr., Assistant Editor

Healthcare facilities, as the name suggests, are places for healing and recovery from all types of ailments. However, sometimes it is just limited to a specific ailment being treated and that alone. 

Enter holistic healing, an approach to designing healthcare settings that seeks to address healing the whole person rather than just the separate parts. It is also not just about the physical state a patient is in, but the mental state they are in as well, says Ashlee Washington, senior associate, NCIDQ at Ankrom Moisan. 

“So that can look like designing exam rooms and clinic spaces so that you have a combined care team that can provide mental health and primary care,” says Washington. “Then the patient can just enter one room and have everyone come to them rather than having someone travel around to various facilities or various spaces within the same facility.” 

Moreover, holistic healing is about reducing the amount of movement required by the patient and increasing the number of relevant professionals they can interact with. This enables the patient to receive more complete care, both physically and mentally, all within one facility. 

Holistic healing goes well beyond just standard care, though. It also addresses other, more subtle needs an individual would have, such as job/economic opportunities or childcare. Part of designing for this is master planning the very location of the healthcare facility itself, says Hao Duong, principal at Ankrom Moisan.  

“Can it [the healthcare facility] be collocated and adjacent to other resources essentially creating a community of support and functions that create that opportunity for addressing different social determinants of health?” says Duong.  “We do not want to downplay the importance of master planning locating these facilities and where they are adjacent to or what types of other resources are part of it.” 

One example of this is healthcare facilities adding spaces such as fitness centers that have physical therapy components to them. It ultimately comes down to how designers think about healthcare and wellness, says Washington.  

Another example is a project that Duong worked on where the healthcare facility he was designing included a safe place for kids to wait or study. Essentially, the facility itself became a space for the community and provided for its needs beyond just healthcare, tying back to the concept of holistic healing.  

“We design a lot of spaces that end up integrating community room and things that can be used sort of outside of that clinic’s hours that people want to be in,” says Washington. “They want to have that connection person to person that also serves to meet those holistic sorts of social needs that we have as people.” 

The ability to create spaces that are joyful and meaningful means that people who visit these facilities want to spend more time in them, says Washington. It also creates a connection to the facility and builds a sense in the visitors that health/healing is much more than just a doctor’s visit.

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

February 8, 2024

Topic Area: Interior Design

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