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5 Lighting Design Strategy Trends in Healthcare Facilities

Lighting HealthcareWhen you think of a healthcare facility, do you think of a large sprawling hospital campus?  Today, that is just one of the many types of medical facilities. There are a variety of other facilities that provide healthcare services including medical offices, urgent care, ambulatory surgical centers and more. In fact, the future of healthcare is looking a lot like retail that targets the consumer--distributed settings that are smaller, less expensive, conveniently located and with an eye to the experience.

One thing all these healthcare facilities have in common is that lighting design techniques play an influential role in the overall patient experience and healing process. Today’s advanced smart lighting systems support many of these design strategies.  Let’s look at some of these design practices. 

Flexibility a Must

With the rapid advances in healthcare technologies and changing patient needs, healthcare facilities at their core must embrace flexibility. It seems almost daily that new treatment deliveries are developed, and novel equipment is deployed plus, approaches to patient care are continually progressing. These advancements and changes impact the design of healthcare facilities.

To support staff’s changing needs, spaces must be adaptable.  For example, a medical-surgical room may need to be transformed into an ICU, then to critical care, to accommodate patient’s care requirements.  Likewise, emergency departments often use portable partitions to reduce the size of patient rooms so that they can treat more people or increase the room size to handle large equipment or additional staff caring for the patient.

Another trending design technique is including shell spaces or soft spaces that serve as short-term placeholders for future expansion.  For instance, a seldom-used conference room could be replaced by a blood lab or exam room as needed.  By incorporating shell spaces in the design stage, the facility ensures it is more adaptable to accommodate future needs.

A flexible lighting system is critical in supporting adaptable spaces.  As space usage changes or is reconfigured, a flexible lighting system can be reprogrammed to suit the illumination needs of the new space.

Design for Staff Efficiency

Healthcare’s highly skilled and well-paid workforce makes up a large percentage of hospital expenses. Therefore, staff efficiency is critical.  Designs that improve operational productivity and reduce staffing needs can have a significant impact on the bottom line. 

Standardizing rooms and floor plans across a facility can support consistent care and greater staff efficiency.  This eliminates staff wasting time looking for items, as they know how rooms are organized -- each room is always the same -- so they can keep their focus on patients’ needs.

Ensuring spaces are well-lit for tasks can improve staff productivity.   Performing different functions in different areas require different lighting--patient rooms require lighting that can be lowered, where nursing stations or labs need brighter lights and task lights over workstations. Personalized lighting allows staff to adjust the brightness depending on the task and time of day.

Bring the Outdoors In

Biophilic interior design elements are based on the concept of bringing the outdoors inside to help boost the mood of patients and staff.  This design feature uses elements from nature such as artwork, plants, calming colors, natural light, or even an outdoor area that patients can visit. 

Natural light has been linked to improved sleep and mood. So, embracing natural light with large windows or curtain walls in healthcare settings is advantageous. Curtain walls comprised of framing that holds glass are not only attractive but protect mid-rise and some high-rise buildings against the harshest environmental elements. For example, they can improve vertical stability especially on structures in natural disaster zones.

Natural light can be further leveraged by using the daylight harvesting feature in lighting control systems. This lighting control measures the amount of natural light in a space using light sensors, then dims or switches off artificial light levels when enough ambient light is present. 

Patients often encounter sleep problems in hospitals and nursing facilities.  A tunable white solution in lighting can help maintain a patient’s or resident’s natural biological clock and sleep/awake cycle.  For instance, in a patient hospital room where occupants have little exposure to natural light, poor sleep can be a problem, triggering additional physical problems such as a weakened immune system or anxiety and depression. By mimicking nature’s circadian rhythm, a tunable white solution can help maintain a patient’s or resident’s natural biological clock and sleep and wake cycle.

To note, some of these features, such as plants would only be used in non-sterile areas like lobbies and waiting rooms.  Additionally, privacy concerns must be met for patients, so discretion must be used when considering the placement of large windows and curtain walls.

Reduce Noise

Excessive noise can have adverse effects on staff and patients. Although designers can’t eliminate activity or noise entirely, the facility’s layout and materials used can help.  Design techniques such as using solid walls and doors between patient beds rather that curtains can help reduce noise.

Reduced light levels support noise reduction by creating a quieter atmosphere. For example, after visiting hours, light levels in corridors can be lowered using time scheduling in lighting control systems to create a quieter atmosphere that helps patients relax and sleep.

Elevate Retail Space

Gift shops have long been the quick stop before visiting a patient in the hospital. Now some healthcare settings are upgrading their retail options to include spas, boutiques and high-end gift shops. These retail therapy options can be a welcome distraction for families and patients as well as a convenience to staff who work long hours.

Healthcare organizations are including a wide range of retail stores that offer health and wellness items such education materials, healthy cookbooks, athletic apparel and even medical equipment.  Others target specific demographics such as oncology patients, where staff are available to help fit patients with wigs or prosthetics.

Advanced lighting systems showcase products in the best light to improve sales while providing a welcoming atmosphere for patients and their families. 

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Topics: Trends