Human-Centered Healthcare Design—Designing for Healing

By Sara Graham

How can human-centered design impact healthcare settings? Human-centered design in architecture is the focus on the users of the space, instead of a generalized solution that may or may not address the needs of those users. One approach to initiating human-centered design is by allowing the users and patients to be a part of the design process from the beginning. Using their needs, desires for the space, and expertise in their area of work allows for the newly designed space to be more effective when the user inhabits it. This collaborative effort allows the group to truly determine what is needed and how to best design the space so that it aids in performance and healing. 

Designing ways to create place attachment is a technique that should be considered. Allowing the users and patients to have personal artifacts or embellishments, as well as letting them assist in the selection of furnishings and finishes, creates a sense of ownership and attachment. Giving the user a sense of ownership eases the healing process while creating a more comforting atmosphere for each individual. Finding ways to allow the built space to support the patient aids in healing, lowers stress levels, and creates a sense of possession.  

Human-centered design through place attachment is of course, much easier to cater to for staff and more long-term patients, but finding a way to make even short-term patients or residents feel at home can contribute to their healing experience. Creating an area that connects the personal and community space where place attachment can take place blends the areas more smoothly. One way this can be achieved is to create an alcove or “porch” for each resident suite where they can place furniture and décor as they like. This allows the transition of personal and communal space to feel more fluid and gives residents more space to call their own. 

TSA has incorporated this design technique on a regular basis. Meadow Peak at Summit Vista is one recent example where human-centered design was applied. In the patient rooms, built-in shelving was designed so that each resident could display personal artifacts, plants and/or photographs of loved ones to create a more personal, homelike space. In addition to their individual rooms, an area was provided within the community’s shared space to which residents are able to contribute. In the main corridor, TSA’s team and Meadow Peak’s owner and staff created a display unit where each resident can display the artwork they create. Allowing each resident a place to display a little part of themselves within the shared space gives a special location for place attachment, even outside of their personal resident rooms. It is small details like this that allow for large impacts on patients healing through human-centered design.