A new approach to place-based medicine.

Gavin Crook

Gavin Crook, Senior Associate

Sensory journeys.

Where and how healthcare is delivered is changing rapidly. Technology is allowing far more home-diagnosis and different types of buildings that challenge the norms of the typical GP surgery or hospital. So how can we optimise this new ‘healthcare journey’?

We’re understanding more and more about how environmental stimuli and technology can make these environments as intuitive and human-centred as possible.

There are a range of design techniques that we can consider to make the experience as enjoyable and stress-free as possible – and they all start with thinking about the user journey…

1. Before leaving home

Virtual environments:

Technology can help patients and carers understand what a building will be like, and how to find their way around even before they leave home. Matterport technology now allows us to create a 3D model of a real-world building, which people can experience in virtual reality. For healthcare buildings, this means nervous or less able patients could be reassured by knowing what to expect from a visit ahead of time.

Sensory journey 1

2. In the building

Easy navigation:

Used appropriately, technology can help manage a building: supporting patient and employee journeys to and around the buildings, as well as enabling room bookings and appointment scheduling. Making buildings easy to understand needs a considered layout, intuitive way-finding, clear and useable security, and an understanding of less-able users.

Intelligent waiting systems can also prevent patients having to wait in narrow corridors and instead utilise a café, exhibition area, or relaxing communal space.

Diverse spaces:

Many new healthcare settings are multi-use spaces with a variety of public and private functions. This means a building needs to serve different purposes for a range of user groups: whether agile working for employees or retail-led areas for visitors. Defining the various journeys to, and around, buildings allows the design of intelligent people-management systems. With everything from wellbeing, productivity, flexibility, and efficient operation a priority, there are a myriad of factors to consider and balance – so the more holistic a design can be, the better.

Sensory journey

Sensory experience:

Visiting any healthcare facility can be an anxious, and sometimes confusing, journey for people. This is especially true for patients with compound medical issues and a variety of abilities. It’s important that, as designers, we understand all the ways their senses might interact with a building. These include:

  • the impact of light and our biological clocks (daylight and artificial light)
  • the sense of space and outdoor connection (layout considerations)
  • the need for wayfinding support (soundscapes, echolocation, and acoustic cues)
  • the effect of atmosphere (controlled background noise and reverberation)
  • the emotion of odours (removing unpleasant or medical smells)
Ultimately, by considering the way people should feel and interact with a space, we can make their healthcare experience as comfortable and positive as possible.