Samples basket

Use of color in healthcare design and healing

Use of color in healthcare design and healing

For some, healthcare facilities such as hospitals and doctors’ offices can cause overwhelming stress and fear. Sometimes these feelings are self-induced, but sometimes the setting can amplify such emotions.  Many hospital rooms are focused on frightening – to the patient – medical equipment surrounded by practical, yet depressing, white walls.  Sure, maybe nothing can be done about the equipment in the room, but the walls demand color.

Color is all around us — from green grass and blue skies to beautiful orange sunsets and freshly bloomed flowers — and it impacts our lives more than we realize. But it can affect our thinking, mood, and most importantly, our overall health. According to The Healthy Home Economist, “Modern research suggests that, yes, color does have a profound impact on how we feel and our biological functions.” 

Colors and what they mean chart

Determining which colors are best suited for significant areas within the healthcare industry should be done with plenty of consideration for not only the facility type, but for the impacts on those that will be seeing it the most. 

Patient rooms

Here, calming and relaxing colors should dominate.  Blues can help lower heart rate while greens promote restfulness — both can aid in a patient’s healing.

In relation to design, these can be some of a hospital’s most important rooms. To encourage serenity and calmness, patient rooms should be as peaceful and pleasant as possible. Biophilic design, a strategy of implementing nature into the environment, can help.

Biophilia, first introduced by Edward O. Wilson in 1984, examines the relationship between nature and healing. Catie Ryan, senior project manager at Terrapin Bright Green, states, “On average, patients whose windows overlooked a scene of nature were released after 7.96 days, compared with the 8.71 days it took for patients whose views were of the hospital’s exterior walls to recover sufficiently to be released — a decrease of 8.5%.” Therefore, even small implementations can progress the healing process. 

To achieve biophilic design, patient rooms should consider natural lighting from windows that overlook gardens or other hospital-created scenic views.  Presenting artwork with trees, mountains, or beaches in patient rooms can also be used to improve patient perception and satisfaction with ongoing health care.

Patient room

Waiting rooms/Lobbies

Design shortcuts that many healthcare facilities take are doing their visitors a disservice.  Hospital waiting rooms are usually the first interaction that many have within a hospital. Rarely thought of as appealing, they’re often small, overcrowded, uncomfortable, and often feature bleak industrial carpeting, squeaky chairs, and dull wall-to-wall shades of the same color. These conditions can be enough to ruin the entire patient experience before even seeing a doctor.

Unique taste and style doesn’t just have to be used in private spaces. Waiting rooms need to be comfortable. Soothing earth tones, turquoise, and shades of blue are known to relax and calm moods, which could alleviate the anxiety that most patients feel when entering a hospital. 

Hospital lobby

Physical therapy centers 

Devoted to the rehabilitation of patients with various neurological, musculoskeletal, and other medical conditions following the stabilization of their diagnosis, physical therapy centers improve function, reduce symptoms, and improve the overall well-being of the patient.  

In an environment where physical movement is required, bright and bold colors can promote energy and adrenaline. Walls should feature neutral and relaxing colors such as beige or grey while a feature wall could be painted blue, purple or even a bold red or orange.  A rainbow of colored exercise floor matting can encourage patients to push through exercises.

Physical therapy center

For more information, and to help you feel more confident in your healthcare design vision, or hospital design, check out these additional materials: hospital floor plan: traits, insights, and tips

Discover more:

Altro and biophilic design 
Color inspiration from nature
Color trends in interior design

Visit the Altro Blog for more posts
Published 01/01/0001