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Facility & infrastructure

Feel-good Hospitals for patients and caregivers

Patients need much more than just medication and skilled treatment in order to get well. Attentive care demonstrably accelerates people’s recovery. Hospital architecture and the design of workplaces and patients’ rooms also play an important role – for the patient’s wellbeing, but also an efficient workflow at the hospital.

in Neunkirchen, Germany, faced the difficult task of moving their patients and all of the medical equipment to a new hospital building. Despite all of the cost pressures, this new beginning gave planners the rare opportunity to design and configure the hospital building and wards from the ground up. Upon entering the red- and-white painted hospital facility, visitors arrive in a foyer with a waiting area containing a piano. The corridors are painted in warm shades of yellow, and the patients’ rooms are much friendlier and more comfortable than those in the previous building. The impression of being in a living room is further enhanced by curtains and movable cupboards for the patients. Even such comparatively simple measures seem to have a big effect. “The patients say that they immediately feel as though they’re in a five-star hotel,” reports Dr. Ernst Konrad, Chief Physician of the Clinic for Anesthesiology and Intensive Care Medicine. In the intensive care units, doctors and nurses find it easier to do their work, and here too the rooms are more comfortable and colorful than those in the previous hospital building.


“Our conscious patients feel much better here,” says Konrad about his first few weeks of working in

t the beginning of the year, the staff at the St. Josef Hospital and Pediatric Clinic

the new wards. “And even patients who are on life support notice their surroundings to some extent.” The hospital is responding to a general trend that began in the U.S. and is now becoming more pronounced in European clinics as well. The focus is not only on providing expert medical care but also on creating a feel-good atmosphere. This also applies to the technical equipment, which is being designed to not only perform well but also appeal to the eyes. One of the reasons for this development is the changed relationship between hospitals and patients, who are no longer viewed only as people in need of help, but also regarded as discerning customers. Another reason is that an individual’s psychological condition has an undisputed impact on the course of his or her illness. The fact that a patient’s surroundings can affect his or her wellbeing and recovery is not just an intuitive assumption; it has been proven in a series of scientific studies.

Looking at nature helps the healing process

“Hospitals used to be places where patients left their personalities and individual needs at the reception desk,” says Matthias Witt, Care Director at the Unfallkrankenhaus Berlin (ukb/Berlin Trauma Center). Witt has many years of professional

experience and was closely involved in the planning and design of the center when it was built in the 1990s. During this process, he considered the patients’ subjective well-being in many specific areas. His initial focus was on how patients appear to be when they are in a given room, and on how they view themselves. “If everything is painted white and a pale patient is lying there, the patient ends up feeling even sicker than he or she actually is,” says Witt. The surroundings that people see and the materials around them can have a direct impact on how much stress they experience. In some cases, this effect can even be measured in terms of the patients’ physical reactions. Whereas abstract art affects people in different ways and can even result in negative reactions, people generally like to see nature, wide expanses, and water – which can have positive effects on heart rates, blood pressure, and the perception of pain. A study at the University of Delaware showed, for example, that patients who had had a cholecystectomy (surgical removal of the gallbladder) needed fewer painkillers and could be discharged sooner if, after their operations, they lay in a room from which they could see trees, as opposed to an identically furnished room with a view of a brick wall. Another study demonstrated that even burn victims can feel less pain if they watch films 19

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