Designing for a Patient-Centered Experience

Co-authored by  Wilsonart Senior Designer Sally Chavez and Healthcare Industry Manager Dr. Mark Krejchi

The secret to successful healthcare design boils down to synchronizing the needs of three parties—the healthcare system, the provider and, most importantly, the patient.  While each party has a different set of needs, all share one common interest—a positive outcome; one that relies on many factors but is most greatly influenced by the experience a patient has in a healthcare built environment. A 2015 study conducted by The Beryl Institute, a leading professional association, reveals that the patient experience is a top priority for the healthcare industry today.


As such, a renewed focus on patient-centered care has taken center stage in the construction and design of healthcare facilities across the country. But what exactly is patient-centered care? The National Academy of Medicine (formerly the Institute of Medicine) describes patient-centered care as “providing care that is respectful of and responsive to, individual patient preferences, needs and values, and ensuring that patient values guide all clinical decisions.” 

In response, healthcare facilities have refocused their efforts to incorporate home-like design, innovative technology, and high performing materials—a distinct departure from mundane institutional design, distant interactions, and stale interiors that so often conjure negative perceptions of healthcare facilities.


To achieve home-sweet-hospital aesthetics, evidence-based design data suggests incorporating natural color palettes and nature-centric patterns. These elements have proven to have a calming effect and positive influence on patient health, well-being, and speed of recovery. Whether an architect includes actual views of the outdoors or a designer incorporates interior surfaces that possess natural aesthetics, both techniques influence how patients and their families view their level of care. In fact, a higher level of care is becoming the new standard for patients. Consider that single patient rooms are no longer a luxurious upgrade but instead are the norm in new hospital design and renovation.[i] 

Patient-centered care has also taken the form of high-tech health apps, online wellness programs, and wearable health trackers

And while technology has encouraged individuals to lead a more proactive and healthy lifestyle, as well as allowed healthcare facilities to provide more personalized and responsive patient care, these tools are no substitute for a physical location where real interactions, quality care, and healing begin.

Cue the designer; whose first order of business when designing for a patient-centered experience should always involve selecting materials that support three critical elements of successful healthcare interior design—Disinfection, Durability, and Design. With a wide variety of surface choices available for healthcare interiors, a designer who understands the design requirements of the modern healthcare built environment is an invaluable asset; because they understand that not all materials can be used in all spaces. 

While a designer’s main focus during the material selection process should be on providing surfaces that are easily disinfected and durable; material selection that encourages an atmosphere of warmth and calmness is also critical to the emotional wellness of patients, visitors, and staff.

Because at the end of the day, the right materials paired with the right performance in the right application can greatly impact the relationship between patient and provider, and ultimately, enhance the overall patient experience. Without question, for a designer to remain relevant in an industry focused on patient-centered care, they must be able to balance purposeful design, material performance, and budget demands.

Designers who can make this a reality will inevitably satisfy the need for healthcare systems to be financially sustainable and empower healthcare professionals to provide a safe and comfortable patient experience. Most importantly, patients will recognize they are receiving the highest quality of service and care they deserve, all while in a setting with surfaces that support a positive outcome.

Ready to start designing your next healthcare project? Explore Wilsonart’s broad range of surfaces for the healthcare industry or continue the series with Part Two.