I’m a big fan of Steelcase furniture company. They are dedicated to making the patient, staff and physician experience better in hospitals and healthcare settings and some of their ergonomic office furniture are among my favs.
And yet… yesterday, when I saw the above image on my Facebook feed attached to the Steelcase article Waiting + Exam Spaces Reimagined, my first reaction was, “This is good, but it can be so much better”.
FIRST, HERE’S WHAT IS GOOD ABOUT THE DESIGN OF THIS EXAM ROOM:
#1 – The seating is arranged in such a way that conversation is encouraged. The doctor is not sitting behind a desk talking at the patient. He is in close proximity to his patients and at eye level with the adult which suggests equality in the conversation.
#2 – The sofa is modern and looks relatively comfortable.
#3 – There’s a nice minimalist feel to the room without any clutter. Large computer screens and equipment have been tastefully left out.
#4 – The whiteboard on the wall behind the doctor is a nice touch in helping the patient visualize the problem or diagnosis, as well as possible solutions.
AND HERE IS HOW THIS EXAM ROOM COULD BE SO MUCH BETTER:
#1 – An oversized loveseat that fits two or more (like the one shown above) needs to have arms on both ends.
Arms on chairs and sofas make us feel safer during a scary time at the doctor’s office. We relax easier when sitting in furniture with arms.
#2 – It’s always preferable to place a sofa against a wall, not a window. And especially not against a window that is several stories high as shown in the above exam room.
When the patient(s) first walks into the room, he or she is reminded of how high up the room is in the building simply with a quick glance out the window.
This would make anyone feel extra vulnerable and unsafe. Anxiety can increase easily, especially among those who are uncomfortable with heights.
It there’s no wall in the room where the chairs or sofas can be located do this:
Place a small sofa table behind the love seat with a table lamp and a plant on it.
This is a Feng Shui design trick I’ve used for many years in designing wellness spaces.
Trust me, the table behind the sofa works to calm the brain because it is a physical and psychological barrier between the patient and the window.
#3 – The above exam room feels too sterile (in my opinion) and there is no place where the patient can grab a tissue or park their cup of tea.
To create a cozier vibe and a place to put things like a cup or a tissue box, float a small round table in front of the sofa on top of an ADA (American Disabilities Act) approved rug that sits under the entire area.
#4 – The small school chair and table is in a great position to foster cooperation among patients and physicians but by placing the doctor in a school chair, it makes him seem smaller and out of place.
Instead, an upholstered chair on wheels for the doc is my preference with an ergonomic computer arm attached to the wall to hold the laptop or other hand-held device.
#5 – Too many rectilinear shapes (windows, furniture, etc.) make the space feel unbalanced and uncomfortable.
Instead, it is preferable to look for easy ways to integrate curves in the shapes of the furniture, tables, lamps, etc. The best feeling spaces have a nice balance of both shapes.
Overall, I love the idea of this newly designed exam room and it is a definite improvement over what is typically seen in a traditional hospital or healthcare setting.
But… this space needs to feel less schoolroom and more homey.
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