It’s no longer enough to design only considering factors such as patient capacity and other traditional elements – in today’s wellness environment, designers also need to ask essential business questions and understand the commerce of healthcare and its components such as behavioral health, as well as user needs, to design spaces that will truly serve clients, practitioners, and communities.
At Taylor Design, we believe that designing for contemporary healthcare requires expansive consideration of what might be happening in the wellness arena, but we also need to be aware and mindful of changes that are occurring in broader societal spheres such as technology, social structure, economics, and culture. We know that our work must take place within the context of significant and sometimes early trends across society as well as potential global issues that might make an impact on healthcare delivery.
Against the backdrop of spiraling healthcare costs, increased competition, and an emphasis on patient/user satisfaction, healthcare is redefining itself with new resources being devoted to preventative lifestyle considerations and population health embedded within communities.
This focus on prevention is leading to a decentralization of facilities in which more compact clinics and even some retail establishments are beginning to assume basic healthcare and prevention needs like blood-pressure checks and vaccinations, taking the burden of those services away from larger medical centers and hospitals. There are many indications that this convergence of wellness, retail, and other sectors will gain even more momentum in the future.
The ideas as to what constitutes healthcare services are shifting in the minds of consumers, as increasing interest in integrative medicine and a more holistic approach to wellness begins to become more common for both wellness purchasers and healthcare providers. The linking of Eastern and Western medicine, yoga, fitness training, massage, and other practices may mean that physician’s roles will shift to being part of a larger wellness team that encompasses disciplines outside their own. As part of this trend, medical providers and spas, along with specialty hotels, are forming partnerships within which patients can receive part of their treatment at alternative locations instead of in traditional medical settings – which carries a significant change in terms of traditional approaches to healthcare facility design and delivery.
Other powerful trends and factors will also accelerate the rate of change in terms of healthcare and wellness design and delivery. Rapid technological advances, paired with social, economic, and social trends are resulting in entirely new methods for delivering healthcare and accommodating seekers of wellness; physicians are now communicating with their patients by phone, email, and video, and these changes will likely result in considerable changes to healthcare facilities and systems. Increasingly, complex medical procedures and surgeries are being performed via advanced technology, often with the practitioner at great distances from the patient, changing the relationship between medical staff and the recipients of care. Unorthodox delivery methods such as group treatment visits – in which a doctor may meet with a group of people dealing with the same health issues at the same time rather than individually – are changing the amount of time a physician needs to treat numerous people, while also allowing people to learn from mutual experiences; such changes will also carry an impact on facility needs and design.
In addition to macro-level developments and trends, designers also need to underpin their efforts with the needs of individual users in the design of places where wellness is the focus for the organization. Design processes must include time to understand not only the client’s organization, but also the lives, sensitivities, and needs of patients, staff, communities, and visitors of healthcare facilities.
In spite of rapid and insistent changes in the health and wellness arena, what will remain constant is the steadfast need for designers to acquire deep understandings of the users they are designing for, their needs, and innovation as a goal. Asking the correct questions and listening to the answers is broadening traditional considerations involving square footage and bed counts, and leading to more relevant and effective healthcare and wellness experiences and operations.
Design is an activity that should be intensely focused on people and their interactions; designing for behavioral health settings must be even more responsive to clients and their supporters, providers, and often the general community. The study of behavioral health is teeming with distinctive – and sometimes competing – assumptions about models of behavior, causes of behavioral difference, the correlation of behavior to societal factors such as socioeconomic status and culture, and the best ways to manage the problems that people experience in their lives.
At Taylor Design, our process is based on learning about – and understanding – the healthcare needs and desires of users, whether they are clients or providers, or the community in which health services are provided; equipped with those insights, we use design as a method for developing solutions and driving value for our clients. We partner with our behavioral health clients to determine if core assumptions are being questioned so that action plans are targeted, and that organizational initiatives are meaningful, effective, and consistent with pertinent approaches to behavioral health.
Our behavioral health design projects are driven by a central idea: an emphasis on understanding the experience of the clients, employees – the “users” of behavioral health services and places; this can encompass people, processes, spaces, and technology. Our goal is to achieve a profound understanding of people so we can develop designs that directly address behaviors, attitudes, and cultures of the community, clients, and employees.
Designing for behavioral health demands that we consider a variety of outcomes at the forefront of our work. These include fundamentals such as making certain that physical hazards are eliminated in the built environment and the selection of furnishings and equipment. We also understand that in behavioral health venues, encouraging the feeling that clients are in control of their experience and can anticipate what will occur during their visit – such as what the sequence of a consultation might be – can be important design goals. Although the reduction of anxiety is an overall goal in any healthcare setting, being especially mindful of the emotional sensitivities of behavioral health client populations is even more vital in terms of design nuances, minimizing stigma, and integrating services into evolving models of community health.
While behavioral health design carries clear constraints and certain needs, we also know that all client populations are more consumer-centric than ever before, and the expectations of behavioral health clients are aligned with the trends and forces shaping general consumer behaviors and the choices that people make regarding healthcare providers. In behavioral health design, this also means understanding important considerations such as assuring that clients feel comfortable in seeking support in their journey, recognizing that the problems people face are often contextual in nature, and understanding the multifaceted reasons that induce clients to pursue professional support.
Finally, at Taylor Design we know that effective workplace design is also an important factor in behavioral health projects; employees need to know that design solutions address their needs, and that their workplace is inviting, secure, and promotes engagement and commitment on the part of every member of the organization.