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Hospital design: From wayfinding to healing

Rarely do we associate healthcare innovation with design. We’re usually referring to medical, or perhaps technological, advancements. But in a world where the patient experience is central and consumers’ understanding of and participation in their health is growing rapidly, innovation in design is just as key. Though often an overlooked piece of a healthcare brand’s identity, hospitals and healthcare facilities have an opportunity to embrace design as a means of enhancing the brand experience for patients, facilitating understanding, and breaking down barriers between consumers and their health.

The difference design makes

When you enter a hospital, do you tend to feel anxious, scared, or, frankly, lost? There are many reasons to associate hospitals with disease and dying. But they are also where we go to get better and where most of our lives actually begin. Yet studies show that negative perceptions persist and that emotional reactions to the hospital environment can even impact a patient’s healing process. Are these reactions purely instinctual or perceptions that can be altered? It turns out that design can help build new, positive associations—and can be incredibly beneficial for your hospital brand.

Redesigning the hospital experience—a growing trend

Better design means a better brand experience, and a better brand experience means happier patients. Having happier patients is, of course, good for business, which is why more hospitals are realizing that design can and does impact the bottom line by driving loyalty, premium, and preference. For this reason, hospitals that embrace design as part of their brand experience are on the rise and expected to grow.

So how do you create a better hospital experience? It’s all in the details. A recent piece in the Wall Street Journal noted, for example, that some hospitals are taking a page from shopping mall and airport playbooks to help people orient themselves in their facilities. Called “wayfinding,” visual cues and thoughtful design elements make the visiting process more user-friendly, relieving worry and stress.

On an aesthetic level, architects and design teams are reimagining hospital interiors by introducing more light, color, outdoor views, and artwork. Spaces are being also being shaped with comfort and traffic flow in mind to make sure patients and their families have adequate space and feel more relaxed. Additionally, technological features being integrated into these interiors will allow doctors and nurses to easily monitor vitals and share health data efficiently and effectively. Check out how designers from NXT Health envision the hospital room of the future.

Your hospital is an extension of your brand

All these design-influenced choices will empower both patients and practitioners, and make the hospital a more pleasant place for everyone. By and large, the key is to think of your hospital as an extension of your brand—and design accordingly.

As our industry continues to innovate—in terms of medical advancements, technological developments, and a shift to patient-focused practices—those of us in healthcare need to incorporate thoughtful environmental design as part of our brands’ platforms to stay relevant and make hospital stays more comfortable and meaningful for those who visit.


Director of Marketing, InterbrandHealth