Promoting a healing environment

Photo by Mary Knox Merrill.

Patients prefer living in sun-lit hospital rooms with colorful walls, big windows and easy access to the TV remote, according to an ongoing study by a visiting scholar at Northeastern University’s Institute on Urban Health Research.

“Patients want their hospital room to be like their home,” says Astrid María Debuchy, an expert in the architectural design of health-care facilities who is conducting in-depth research on the impact of environmental factors on patient health. “You can’t underestimate the role of the environment on the healing process.”

Debuchy — a PhD candidate at the Faculty of Architecture Design and Urbanism at the University of Buenos Aires — recently presented a paper on trends in health facilities at an interdisciplinary conference in Cuba that was sponsored by the Pan American Health Organization. In April, she presented a paper at Northeastern’s Research and Scholarship Expo on humanizing the architecture in intensive care and coronary care units.

Architects, doctors and community leaders, she says, must collaborate on the design of health-care facilities, which should reflect the unique cultural, social and psychological needs of their patients. Building hospitals according to a standardized design, she says, is not the best way to ensure top-quality care.

“A hospital has to be an answer, not a problem,” says Debuchy. “In many countries, the effect of a healing environment on a patient’s health is not taken into consideration.”

Patients who deal with the din of loud roommates, the lack of natural sunlight or inadequate accommodations for their visitors report increased levels of anxiety, according to Debuchy.

“Stress is one of the worst things that can befall a patient,” she says. “Patients like to be in contact with nature and in control of their situation.”