July 2021 — Health Care & Senior Housing Quarterly — Page 7 Englewood | Steamboat Springs | We Build: MEDICAL Synergy Medical Office Building and Parking Garage Englewood, CO HEALTH CARE — DESIGN I nteriors, arguably, have the greatest impact on a build- ing’s relevance and service. From space planning and the materials specified to the strategic use of acoustics and light- ing, all elements of interior design lend themselves to the experi- ence an individual has in a space. The design decisions in a building should not be taken lightly. Enter evidence-based design: the practice of grounding all design decisions on credible research – not personal or brand aesthetic – to cre- ate the best outcome for the end user. By using peer-reviewed stud- ies about the impact of lighting on an individual’s mood or user sur- veys to incorporate the desires of patrons, developers can maximize client experiences within a specific space. This is particularly important for the health care sector, where patients are seeking treatment for sensitive issues and employees are working in highly demanding set- tings. By simply incorporating data- driven decisions, the interior design of a facility can promote a healing, comforting and stress-reducing environment that is conducive to the well-being of patients and staff alike. This has become a topic of immense interest following the pandemic’s impact on stress and anxiety within the health care space. Even before the emergence of COVID-19, the health care pro- fession was known for having a high level of employee burnout. In addition to their original func- tion, health care workers are now expected to incor- porate new social distancing and cleaning proce- dures while adapt- ing to the new virtual methods of telehealth. Patients also experience increased anxi- ety surrounding health facilities and expect prac- tices and procedures to be in place for their safety. The latest input across the indus- try is showing how integral the abil- ity to adapt is to health care opera- tions. For instance, the introduction of service options like telehealth and drive-up treatment have creat- ed new avenues for development in the health care sector, and facilities must have the resources to provide these options. For design, this will include crafting spaces that incor- porate technological advancements productively and efficiently. The spatial arrangement also must be adaptable to changing circumstanc- es. This could mean anything from shifting to single-seating options that allow for easy rearrangement to creating new interior/exterior spaces that allow for screening of patients upon arrival. Spaces must be flexible and have the ability to change according to new proce- dures and guidelines. The materials used within a given health care space are key to deter- mining both cleanliness and com- fort. While research shows comfort often is associated with soft surfac- es like wood, facilities are making the switch to nonporous materials that mitigate the transfer of germs and are easier to clean. While ben- eficial for infection control, the use of too many nonporous surfaces can contribute to issues such as poor acoustics. These surfaces can also make a space feel sterile, which can increase patient stress. To combat this, interior designers have been considering counters of natural materials like quartz because they are known to be both nonporous and comforting. Natural materials bring a sense of peace by connecting the interior space to the outside world. In a similar manner, color can be used to provide comfort where soft surfaces previously had. Stud- ies have shown that color schemes impact mood and must be used strategically. For example, blue is believed to be interpreted as sooth- ing; yellow, on the other hand, when used excessively can induce anger or even upset infants. It also is important to acknowl- edge the population that the facil- ity will serve. Cultural differences between locations will lend to dif- ferent interpretations of colors. In Colorado, for example, clinics may want to incorporate green spaces into the interior design, whereas a clinic our team designed and built in Salem, Oregon, incorporated bright colors. The local community to which this facility provides care is predominantly Hispanic, and the residents involved in our regional research reported perceiving these colors as warm and homey, thus feeling more comfortable in this space. Another aspect considered is the connection between staff and patient well-being. In a pilot survey for a current project, the No. 1 con- cerns from patients was how they were treated by staff and if their concerns were truly heard. Our research has shown that improving staff satisfaction will in turn lead to a better connection with patients. Everything from lighting, music, art, indoor plants and areas of respite have been intentionally incorporat- ed into the design to improve staff mentality in addition to enhancing patient comfort. Evidence-based design is instru- mental to making the most of inte- rior space and encouraging produc- tivity, adaptability and comfort. This is especially relevant now, given the current climate in health care. These factors should be evaluated and considered in the early stages of the project in order to create the most functional and comfortable space for clients and patients. By bringing research into the process at the outset, design decisions can be intentionally rooted in what will provide the most value for the indi- vidual client, elevating the health care experience and strengthening the surrounding community. s Evidence-based design: More important than ever Trinity Kahn Senior interior designer, The Neenan Co.