By: Joe McCormick and Ken Smondrowski
August 05, 2021
Battleship gray. Uninspiring. Drab. Uncomfortable. Over the years, these and similar adjectives have been used to describe the first impressions and interiors of the standard medical office building and doctor’s office. However, there’s a growing movement to flip this stigma and bring life and light to these once depressing healthcare environments.
Many people have an inherent aversion to medical treatment. This can be driven by fear of the unknown (which can be magnified many times over with health implications), sensitivity to being poked and prodded, privacy concerns, or a litany of other factors. Walking into a dreary, uncomfortable healthcare environment certainly does nothing to help assuage these feelings. But the opposite is true: Architects, workplace strategists, interior designers and medical providers have discovered that purposeful, strategic use of healthcare space boosts tenant and visitor satisfaction, improves patient comfort and creates efficiencies that make a significant impact on the bottom line.
Color is not the only way to enhance patient outcomes. Introducing natural elements into a space can have immediate positive effects, as studies have shown that viewing nature scenes can help reduce stress, relieve anxiety and lower blood pressure. This can be achieved by incorporating a living “green” wall, positioning plants throughout the space or even showcasing nature scenes on TV.
Another simple way to positively influence patient attitudes is by relying on the power of natural light, which has been proven to improve mood and health. If your reception area and waiting room have windows, allow for sun exposure that that is balanced for temperature and visual comfort. Investing in quality furniture will allow visitors to relax during this time.
These principles are not only intended for large hospital systems; they can be applied across the healthcare spectrum. Dr. Rachel Schreiber, an allergist based in Rockville, Maryland, has long been a believer in the positive effects an uplifting environment can have on patients. When she relocated and expanded her practice, many patients feared she would abandon the color and vibrancy for which she was known. Yet the new space, despite using a different color palette and themes, retained the brightness and optimism she is convinced influences patients’ behaviors and attitudes toward healthcare. Social media comments back this up, with posters saying they “love the light and bright happy colors” and calling her space the “prettiest doctor’s office ever.”
“It is hard enough going to the doctor when you don’t feel well, particularly with children,” Dr. Schreiber said. “I want a space that uplifts my patients immediately when they come in.”
Because healthcare services are a necessity for most of us, it is important to consider how simple, relatively cost-effective steps can increase patient satisfaction and contribute to positive outcomes – the ultimate goal for any growing physician practice, hospital system or investor in healthcare real estate.
Senior Vice Presidents Joe McCormick and Ken Smondrowski are both real estate experts in Transwestern’s Healthcare Advisory Services group, working with owner and users of medical office, biotech and lab space.
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