Designs on High Touch Healthcare
by Jeff Stouffer, AIA
The Wasatch Mountains serve as a dramatic backdrop for the Utah Valley Regional Medical Center in Provo, Utah. The mountain theme is incorporated throughout the facility — from its curved parapets and sculptured stone fountain to the grassy park with tree-covered walking trails.
Inside, the facility hosts lush landscapes, floor-to-ceiling glass, and a soothing garden. In the lobby, a grand piano plays classical music. A concierge greets and assists visitors.
This isn't the future. Such design is taking place today in hospitals around the country as part of a new approach to healthcare, in which cost-efficient, flexible planning is intermingled with human-centered design.
A Place for Healing
Studies in the United States and abroad demonstrate that reducing stress can accelerate the healing process. In architectural terms, this suggests providing familiar and comforting environments to support healing.
According to Roger S. Ulrich, Ph.D., director of the Center for Health Systems and Design at Texas A&M University, providing daylight and windows with views as well as individual patient control, aids in the healing process.
Ulrich says, "Research shows that intensive care patients in rooms with windows and pleasant nature distractions experienced less anxiety and pain. They were also less susceptible to delirium and... had more favorable postoperative courses."
The movement toward making hospitals less institutional traces back to 1977. Angelica Thieriot, a patient at Pacific Presbyterian Medical Center, was dissatisfied with her hospital stay. She felt that she was hurried in and out of the hospital.
While there, she stared at blank, white walls, feeling lonely and afraid. Later, she developed the Planetree model of healthcare. This stresses intensive patient education, family involvement in care giving, and the importance of the physical environment in promoting healing.
A sculpture of two children and their grandmother in the park emphasizes family involvement at the Utah Valley Regional Medical Center in Provo, Utah, designed by HKS, Inc.
Photo: Ed LaCasse
Many of the labor/delivery rooms have rooms with a view of the Wasatch Mountains.
Photo: Ed LaCasse
Click on thumbnail images
to view full-size pictures.