Going to the hospital is something most of us do at some point, however it is rarely an enjoyable experience even at the best of times. Thanks to research done by TU Delft PhD candidate Milee Herweijer, who defended her doctoral thesis Friday April 22, we have learned that Dutch hospitals are in fact unnecessarily patient unfriendly.
In her thesis titled ‘Evidence-Based Design in Dutch Hospitals' Herweijer, from the TU Delft Faculty of Architecture and the Built Environment investigated why Dutch hospitals are rarely optimal healing environments. The term 'healing environment' does not simply refer to a hospital or a practice. Herweijer explained that though the term is broad and difficult to define, "the thesis makes a distinction; healing environment is the word we use in general for everything we think is a positive environment for patients." This can be everything from lighting, and acoustics, to providing single rooms, and decentralised nurses’ stations, which as well as increasing comfort all help expedite patient recovery times. This research was undertaken within the framework of Evidence-Based Design.
Herweijer told Delta that healing environments have been a topic of interest in press and hospital design for the past few years, and other countries such as the United States of America have considerable information available for architects. Here however is a different story. Architects designing and building hospitals in the Netherlands have very little scientific knowledge about healing environments, something which can negatively impact patients' experiences and healing times. Herweijer explained how in her research even she had some trouble finding relevant information. "There is interest," she said, "only no one knows where to find the correct information and how to make a healing environment."
She emphasised that compiling this knowledge and making it easily available for architects is key to improving the design of Dutch hospitals. Her thesis provides a checklist of fifty concrete elements which architects can consider in their design: "All the elements have a proven influence on promoting health and wellbeing, from making a window with sunlight to positioning furniture."
The thesis has been well-received so far, and Herweijer hopes it will be a spring-board for more research into healing environments in the Netherlands, telling Delta, "I am enthusiastic about making the hospital environment a lot better for patients. I hope this can be applied in real life, and not just in a book."
Herweijer-van Gelder, M.H, Evidence Based Design in Nederlandse Ziekenhuizen, Supervisors: W. Patijn and C. Wagenaar, Defence: April 22.