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Hospital environments key to patient recovery

We’ve previously highlighted how community hospitals are being urged to make themselves more dementia friendly to help patients, but there have been a range of studies that have shown that hospital environments in general have a real impact on overall patient recovery.

There’s a concept that has emerged called ‘healing architecture’, which implies that the physical healthcare environment can make a difference in how quickly patients recover or adapt to specific conditions.

The aim of healing architecture is to create environments which engage patients in the process of self-healing and recovery. These spaces are designed to be nurturing and therapeutic to reduce patient and family stress.

One of the teachings of healing architecture is to eliminate environmental stressors, such as noise, lack of privacy, poor air quality and glare.

According to research conducted by Cochrane authors, the layout and pictures within a hospital can also affect patient recovery.

With that in mind, here are various ways that different aspects of a hospital environment can impact patient recovery.


Researchers from King’s College London found that noise pollution is a common concern among patients, families and staff. The study showed that 40% of patients are bothered by noise at night. Hospital noise has been linked to hospital-induced stress, increased pain sensitivity, high blood pressure and poor mental health; which impacts a patient’s ability to rest, heal and recover.

Noise can be from a range of sources, from everyday machinery and equipment, to one-off or ongoing refurbishment works – which can be mitigated through various solutions.

Privacy & Infection Control

A hospital in Canada redesigned its ICU from shared to private rooms and found that the rate of bacterial infection decreased by more than 50%. The new ICU design also decreased the length of stay by 10%. After studying results for five years, the results showed that “conversion to single rooms can substantially reduce the rate at which patients acquire infectious organisms while in the ICU.”

Incidentally, our internal hoarding range has been used in many hospital refurbishments when works have been carried out. Either to change the layout of wards or to create private rooms as above. As Hoardfast is a market leading temporary internal screening system, which provides a hygienic dust tight seal and is ideal for infection control.

Landscaping & Greenery

Back in 1984, Roger Ulrich, a visiting professor at Center for Healthcare Architecture at Chalmers University of Technology in Sweden, wrote a paper that highlighted the effect of natural scenery on patient outcomes.  

“View Through A Window May Influence Recovery From Surgery” compared two sets of patients: one with “tree views” and one with “wall views.” The data showed that those patients with tree views had “shorter postoperative hospital stays, fewer negative evaluative comments from nurses, took fewer moderate-to-strong analgesic doses, and had slightly lower scores for minor postsurgical complications.”

And since then, more research has been done into landscaping and greenery in hospital environments that has concluded that “natural vegetation and hospital landscape play a vital role in health and well being of patients through various physical, psychological and social benefits.”

If it’s not feasible to revamp a hospital environment to incorporate gardens and large scale nature features, bringing natural elements to the hospital where possible is a great alternative.

It’s clear from the research that has been done up to now that hospital environments play a key role in patient recovery, and it could be the case that many hospitals and healthcare facilities begin to incorporate healing architecture features into their environments. However, hospitals should be mindful of minimising disruption during any refurbishments or renovations, and take steps to maximise patient comfort and recovery during this time.

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