Creating Healing Spaces: How a COVID-19 Healthcare Environment can Support Patient Healing
Because of its nature, the healthcare industry is constantly working towards overall improvements. This is especially true during the Covid-19 pandemic, where the lives of thousands depend on effective and safe processes. One of the most vital primary data points to improved healthcare performance is higher patient satisfaction outcomes. These outcomes are self-reported by the patient following their care at the hospital. Research has demonstrated that improved scores have a plausible correlation to higher revenue (Akinleye et al., 2016). According to the Deloitte Center for Health Solutions, it has been found over time that hospitals with high patient-reported experiences scores are much more profitable than hospitals with low scores. This can be shown in reviewing the Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems (HCAHPS) survey, where hospitals with higher scores typically have a net margin of 3 percent. Therefore, creating an environment that meets the need of the patient is not just good quality care, it improves the bottom line.
As hospitals work to determine how to improve the experience of care, there is one primary factor to consider: healing. A novel idea, as most patients come to the hospital to be healed of their ailments. But how can the environment evoke healing and in turn improve outcomes?
“The environment cannot cause healing to occur, but can facilitate engagement in behaviors and emotions that support healing; the environment can induce physical and emotional responses such as happiness, joy, and relaxation; and the built environment can enhance individual control and functionality—all of which are antecedents to healing.” (Dubose, MacAllister, Hadi et al., 2016).
Our research explored this very question and found three simple actions that can support the perception of improved healing: a feeling of being cared for, comfortable and calm, and have familiarity with the environment to fully aid in helping patients heal. We know that the environment is an influencer to health and healing. During this pandemic and even in the best of times, a hospital environment can be difficult to relax within as patients are stripped of their comforts. This stress associated with this feeling is a prime inhibitor to healing. As care providers and designers, we can focus on these three things that will directly support the patient and enhance the healing process.
Being cared for:
Patients heal when they feel they are being cared for. This is manifested through seeing staff care for them and hearing the activity. In the current Covid-19 pandemic, the clinician is both providing medical care and acting as a psychosocial caregiver. Within the environment, it is vital that the clinical staff are visible to the patients. Additionally, positive healing outcomes can be found if patients have the ability to connect with loved ones through video conference to surround them with other individuals who care for them greatly.
Comfortable and calm:
We are sensory beings, and patients managing sickness have heightened senses that can cause stress. When these senses are supported, there is a sense of comfort. Visually seeing images of nature from artwork to a window can calm one’s mind immediately. Reducing jarring noises such as turning off alarms or not allowing doors to slam can allow the patient to stay relaxed. Adjusting light levels throughout the day and reducing glare help support the patient to heal. Addressing temperature and removing adverse smells from the room will allow them to relax.
Familiarity with the environment:
The patients’ room environment is the farthest thing from the patient’s home. Drawing familiar things to the patient will support them in healing. This could be watching a familiar show on TV, listening to music they enjoy or placing some images of loved ones on the wall. These sensory connectors will trigger the joy and happiness response that can aid in the healing journey.
In addition to patient satisfaction, these elements have also been linked to other outcomes, including reduced injuries, fewer infections, less stress, and improved quality of sleep. Enviah works to ensure these needs are being met in each project our team is a part of to achieve optimal results for patients, staff, and organizations.
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Akinleye, D. D., McNutt, L. A., Lazariu, V., & McLaughlin, C. C. (2019). Correlation between hospital finances and quality and safety of patient care. PloS one, 14(8), e0219124. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0219124
Deloitte Center for Health Solutions. (2016). The value of patient experience: Hospitals with better patient-reported experience perform better financially. https://www2.deloitte.com/content/dam/Deloitte/us/Documents/life-sciences-health-care/us-dchs-the-value-of-patient-experience.pdf
DuBose, J., MacAllister, L., Hadi, K., & Sakallaris, B. (2016). Exploring the Concept Analysis of Healing Spaces. HERD: Health Environments Research & Design Journal, 11(1), 43-56. doi:10.1177/1937586716680567