How Patient-Centric Design Helps Promote Wellness

Staying informed on accessible patient-centric design will further improve healing and the facility’s overall wellness mission.

By Mackenna Moralez, Associate Editor


Providing the best care for patients is at the core of what every hospital or other healthcare facility aims to do. Despite this mission, many healthcare facilities are not designed with patients in mind. As healthcare delivery and access continue to evolve, designers need to anticipate and contributors to ongoing change. Staying informed on accessible patient-centric design will further improve healing and the facility’s overall wellness mission. 

Healthcare Facilities Today recently spoke with Rolando Conesa, regional design leader at NELSON Worldwide about how designers can create thoughtful, innovative design solutions with patients in mind.  

HFT: How do you involve patients in the design process to ensure their needs and preferences are considered? 

Rolando Conesa: In general, clients usually have results from Press Ganey scores that drive the design process from post care patient surveys. As a firm, we design on the latest and best practices and we consider the patient and family experience a key driver in design, as well as the staff experience, which has been proven to produce better overall outcomes and retention. For specialty centers that cater to a particular demographic, sex, or illness, we normally create a community advisory committee made up of patients and family members. These committees are an integral part of the design process providing personal experiences in their care which help guide the design solutions. The committees have proven very successful over time as these participants have a sense of pride and ownership of the product. As a great example, we used this approach in designing the Miami Cancer Institute and today, the committee members serve as ambassadors for the project to anyone going there for care. 

HFT: What strategies do you employ to make healthcare facilities more welcoming and less intimidating for patients and their families? 

Conesa: It has been scientifically proven that having the least amount of stress on the patient prior to receiving care has improved the efficacy of the treatment itself and produced better clinical outcomes overall. The design intent for a medical facility is to do just that—reduce stressors such as ease of parking, orientation and wayfinding to entrances and points of care, ease of registration, and most importantly creating a visual and sensory experience that feels warm and welcoming from the minute you enter a center. Medical facilities today employ many hospitality design elements that de-emphasize traditional medical aesthetics, changing the experiential paradigm for the patients and their families coming to healthcare centers for care. 

HFT: How do you address the diverse needs of patients in terms of age, culture, and physical abilities when designing healthcare spaces? 

Conesa: There are many common design elements that apply to each; these are universal and applied as part of code compliance such as accessibility, life safety, and health safety. However, there are other specific design elements and solutions that we apply depending on different segments of population like minorities, women, and children and certain demographics including age and culture. 

When designing for the elderly, special attention is given to lighting, flooring, wayfinding, and ease of access. Surfaces can be a great factor in this case, as well, as reflectance may cause sight problems, as well as slipping or falling. Additionally, certain colors are more soothing and appropriate for elderly, as well as more simple accommodations like seating with arms for ease of getting in and out and with just the right amount of comfort. Resiliency of all materials for ease of maintenance is also key. 

For specific cultural groups, the whole patient flow may be further analyzed in case there are cultural nuances, like the intermingling of sexes for example, that might require a different approach. Also, we like incorporating any cultural imagery or design elements that represent a specific community or ethnic group being served, whether that’s through textiles, paint colors, wall coverings, or art. These elements enhance the patient experience, making the place feel relatable and welcoming. 

For kids, colors are important. Spaces should be animated to take their minds away from care, but it is a delicate balance as you don’t want to agitate them. Red should be avoided! 

HFT: What are some key principles or design elements that can improve patient comfort and satisfaction in healthcare settings? 

Conesa: Always design with the patient journey in mind. Implement proven design elements that enhance the patient and family experience and provide the care givers ease to work within. Keep budgets in mind as we are stewards of limited funds that go to projects which do great things for the health and wellbeing of communities throughout. 

Mackenna Moralez is the associate editor of the facilities market. 



January 2, 2024


Topic Area: Construction


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