Hospital design has been focused on interior designs housed within practical discrete buildings, according to the flow of patient care and the medical professional’s requirements of how each hospital room should be like. How can we take into consideration the medical regulations and come up with a hospital that is friendly and puts the patient at the heart of its design? After all, patients with increased engagement will have better health outcomes according to PS Gill’s study published in the International Journal of General Medicine.

Singapore Changi Airport’s “Project Jewel”, which is in another highly regulated space, is designed not just based on functional needs but from the angle of the traveller’s experience in the airport. A key feature of the complex, which serves to link the three airport terminals, is a large-scale, lush indoor garden with a waterfall. A similar design revolution is needed for hospital experiences.

Artist's impression of Project Jewel, which will feature a large-scale, lush indoor garden and waterfall (PHOTO: Changi Airport Group)

The Current State of Hospitals make Incorporating New Design Ideas a Challenge

Innovative hospital design is not easy to implement as existing vendors and suppliers for the medical business are entrenched in current design and construction processes. Any design veering too drastically from the norm will result in much higher costs in such a niche market.

Current healthcare facilities in the region is largely designed to be utilitarian and efficient to meet growing demands at a lower costs. Private hospitals try to differentiate by applying surface design changes like colour and material, which may not have a significant impact on the actual patient experience.

How then can we move towards a patient-centred design in stages, if not all at once?

Moving Towards What Patients Want

New healthcare developments are increasingly putting the patient’s comfort level and experience as a more important consideration in their design plans.

Khoo Teck Puat Hospital (KTPH), a 570-bed general and acute care hospital, was built with the patients’ comfort in mind. The building facade and internal layouts are designed to enhance daylight while reducing glare for the patient wards, and patient wards have natural ventilation and a view of the nearby park. Higher class wards also offer integrated facilities such as touch-screen bedside terminals.

Terrace and rood gardens and therapeutic green spaces provide for calming surroundings at Khoo Teck Puat Hospital that soothe and rejuvenate. The citrus and edible gardens also provide an organic source of herbs and spices for the hospital’s garden.

Large areas of KTPH were set aside for green landscapes and gardens, with a focus on sustainable development and preservation of biodiversity. These green spaces provide a calming surrounding area for patients to feel rejuvenated.

Health City Novena provides an end-to-end experience in a similar green setting. Beyond just acute care, the 17-ha development is working towards empowering an active and healthy lifestyle, integrating four needs into a communal environment. Health City Novena is not only a place for healing; it is also a place for the community, a place of enrichment and a place for leisure.

Health City Novena’s vision to create an integrated community of healthcare, medical education and translational research in a vibrant and sustainable communal environment.

Consulus’ Ideas for a Patient-Centred Healthcare Experience

This is what Consulus envisioned for a hospital after a design study and strategy to develop an immersive experience. The client, a developer for unique experiences, wanted a completely different perspective of hospital experiences and aimed to build something different. We looked at existing hospitals and reviewed areas that will contribute to a better patient experience beyond just an overhaul for the interior.

Here, we utilise the Consulus 4-Frames methodology for a better user experience. Like in movie, each frame shows how the user will perceive an encounter. The way the experience is presented with relevant artifacts will affect how the users interact and feel about the process.

We imagine the hospital as an immersive healing garden focused on calming patients’ nerves and putting them at ease. At the heart of it, a patient should see the hospital as a place of healing, with a language that they can understand and connect with.

4-Frames for a New Medical Experience: An Immersive Healing Garden

4-Frames for Hospital