The ability to provide an exemplary patient experience is something that all healthcare clinics understand to be of paramount importance. In most cases, this understanding will mean that clinic owners focus on improving the patient experience in a variety of ways; for example, by reducing waiting times, utilizing IT developments, or introducing new, innovative treatments as soon as they become available.
However, there is one aspect of patient experience that tends to be overlooked: the interior and exterior design of the premises. Below, we’ve looked deeper into the impact good design can have on patient experience, as well as the side benefits you may be able to achieve with a few design changes.
Provide a dedicated parking lot if possible
If you have access to any land outside of your clinic, utilizing this space in order to create a parking lot is definitely worth considering for two particular reasons:
- Accessibility. For patients with disabilities, off-site or public parking is far from ideal – potentially even to the point where they will choose to visit another clinic solely because it has its own parking lot. As a result, we can conclude that parking lots are integral to the patient experience of a considerable number of patients.
- Professionalism. Whether justified or not, many people assume a business with its own parking lot is simply more professional than businesses that expect their visitors to manage their own parking needs.
If you wish to enjoy the above advantages, then the good news is that creating a parking lot is far simpler than you may initially imagine. Provided you either own, or have permission to use, the land and are willing to hire the likes of Cochran Engineering in order to create plans that utilize the space as best as possible, you should be able to complete the work in a reasonable time frame.
Consider how colors can influence mood
The colors you use in your healthcare clinic can be surprisingly crucial for patient experience, primarily because colors can influence human emotions. If you use the right colors, you can ensure that your patients are able to enjoy a pleasant, relaxing experience; use the wrong colors and patients may feel more agitated or stressed.
- Perhaps the best color choice for a healthcare clinic is blue. Most people associate blue with serenity, making it the perfect choice to help soothe your patients while they wait for their appointment to begin.
- Wherever possible, look to use for ‘warmer’ blues – such as cornflower or ultramarine blue – rather than mint or icy shades, which can be a little sterile and unpleasant to the eye.
- Green and purple – especially pastel tones – can also work well in a healthcare setting, again helping to create a calming, relaxed atmosphere.
- Some healthcare clinics choose to use traditionally “happy” colors, such as bright oranges and yellows – but these should be used with caution. While these colors are associated with happy feelings, they can be a little overwhelming and overstimulating in a healthcare setting.
- Red should ideally be avoided; this color is beautiful and vibrant, but it is associated with danger and can provoke feelings of agitation and distress – which a healthcare clinic will naturally want to avoid.
- Gray is often seen as a decent ‘middling’ choice, but should be avoided, as most people associate gray with dullness and lifelessness.
Finally, it’s worth noting that if you’re in doubt, it’s best to use white. White is a crisp, bright color that helps light to carry across a space – it may not be the most inventive or exciting, but it also doesn’t cause any negative emotions, making it a suitable ‘default’ choice. If you are concerned about white making the interior of your clinic feel too, well, clinical, then you can introduce splashes of color via artwork and photographic prints, or use potted plants to soften the space.
Ensure all seating is as comfortable as possible
Every patient who arrives for a healthcare appointment is likely to be aware they will need to wait for a while, but how they are expected to wait is hugely impactful in terms of the patient experience. If a patient is directed to a waiting room full of hard, uncomfortable chairs, their opinion of the clinic will immediately nosedive – so comfortable furniture is vital. Here are a few tips to keep in mind:
- Modern design trends have moved away from ‘comfortable’ chair styles in preference of bar-stool-esque designs and hard, curved seats, but these contemporary innovations should be avoided in a healthcare clinic. Opt for chairs that are cushioned both on the seat and the back, preferably with lumbar support in order to offer an extra degree of comfort.
- Chairs with arms can be uncomfortable for some patients, so ensure chairs are completely arm-free, or that there are at least a few armless options available.
- It is also worth including chairs of different heights in order to provide additional comfort for those who are particularly tall.
Handrails and stair rails
Many patients visiting your clinic will require handrails or stair rails, so it is vital to ensure these are included in your design. When choosing handrails and stair rails for the exterior of your clinic, there are two important components to consider: the height and the material.
- The standard height of handrails and stair rails tends to be set by local government, so you will need to check to ensure you are in full compliance.
- You may also be required to use specific materials so, again, check with your local authority. However, if you do have a choice, opt for wood or synthetic materials rather than metal; metal is very susceptible to temperature changes, whereas wood is more likely to maintain a stable, usable temperature year-round.
Choose a suitable surface
It is important to consider the surfaces that your patients will walk on when accessing the clinic; for example, the surface of your parking lot, walkways, steps, and accessible ramps. Wherever possible, choose surfaces that are non-slip – which, in most cases, tends to mean surfaces that are slightly textured to the touch.
Furthermore, it is also best to avoid bricks or cobbles. While these types of surfaces can look fantastic, they are also notoriously high-maintenance – unsightly moss and weeds can grow between each individual brick, for example – and can be problematic for wheelchair users. A flat, slightly textured surface is always the best choice.
Find the right window coverings
When it comes to the windows of your clinic, there are three particular necessities:
- The windows must be professional and, if possible, aesthetically pleasing.
- The windows must allow enough natural light to pass into the internal spaces.
- The windows must be covered enough to obscure the view from outside of the clinic, in order to provide privacy to patients.
Unfortunately, these three necessities can often compete with one another: for example, you could use blinds on your clinic’s windows, which achieves the first and third goals, but falls down on the second.
Thankfully, there are ways and means of ensuring your windows meet all three essential needs: one example is window film. This film applies directly to the window, looks very modern and stylish, obscures the view from outside, and allows natural light to pass through – the best of all worlds.
Clear signage and/or floor direction lines
No matter the size of your healthcare clinic, signage is absolutely vital to overall patient experience.
- Simple arrows are always a sound choice, especially for directing patients from the front entrance to the main reception desk. Bright green is usually the best choice for arrows as people are conditioned – by traffic lights – to see green as a “go” color, which encourages them to follow along.
- Larger clinics may want to consider utilizing hospital-style direction line systems. These systems are relatively simple to set up and can last for many years, while also being familiar and easy-to-use for patients.
- As a general rule, wherever you have a seat, there should be basic signage – for the front desk and bathroom facilities – visible from that seat. The simplest way to achieve this is usually by hanging signs from the ceiling, though nearby walls can also suffice.
Signage is also an important consideration for the external design of your healthcare clinic. If a patient is visiting your clinic for the first time, they have to be able to find it quickly and easily. If a patient has to walk around the block multiple times, they will inevitably arrive at their appointment feeling stressed, which means their patient experience has immediately gotten off on the wrong foot.
It is therefore imperative to ensure that your clinic has excellent external signage, which is visible both during the day and at night. You can do this by using a neon sign, or by using a standard sign along with LED lights that are activated when night falls.
By keeping the above points in mind, the design of your clinic can dramatically improve patient experience, along with a few extra benefits that can greatly enhance your service overall.