TOO SICK TO MOVE A MUSCLE? What a load of nonsense. The latest data, however, show that most of you reading these words will not escape illness. And I’m not just talking about a touch of flu.

‘Unfortunately, cancer and cardiovascular disease are still the most likely causes of premature death and most probably will remain so in the future,’ says Jos Stuyfzand, senior creative director at Philips Design Healthcare. ‘Technologically, from a medical point of view, a lot is possible, but real progress is made by looking at the environment in which healthcare is provided.’

The challenges facing Stuyfzand and his multidisciplinary design team are complex. They have to determine the needs of the hospital staff – how can a space facilitate optimal performance, accurate diagnostics and quality treatment? – as well as the experience of the patient. The more emotionally supported a patient feels, the quicker their recovery. The team has to contemplate the wants and needs of the individual, and personalization plays an important part in this. They must also consider cultural conventions and customs. In the Middle East, for instance, the family room is a must. The fact that all these concerns simmer within a pressure cooker of cost-efficiency (time is money) only adds to the stress. To be successful, designers need close collaboration with hospital organizations and with experts in medical workflow planning, technology, operation and, last but not least, what Stuyfzand calls ‘people researchers’ – in order to better understand both the functional requirements of a space and, especially, the emotional needs of patients, relatives and staff.

Stuyfzand attended Design Academy Eindhoven, where he learned to make a good product. The starting point was usability. When he joined Philips – working first at Philips Lighting and, for the past eight years, at the company’s HealthTech Division, now the company’s core strategic focus – his attention shifted from a product’s usability to its performance. ‘Talking about good lighting no longer meant talking about the design of a product but about whether the lighting effect creates the right atmosphere – about Ambient Experience solutions aimed at using technology to influence the human perception of spaces,’ he says. Although the impact of lighting has been a hot topic for well over a decade, and although ‘ambience’ is an immaterial notion, the use of lighting remains prominent in the design of clinics and hospitals. How do patients experience each moment, from intake process and admission to treatment and aftercare? How can a designer make sure that every space, whether it be a waiting room or an operating theatre, generates optimal conditions for recovery? If it promotes wellbeing, it promotes healing.

A concrete vision of the future is Philips Reading Room 2020, a tool for exploring how technology-enabled healthcare environments can improve patient care and clinical workflow. (Courtesy of Philips)
By transforming treatment rooms into engaging environments, designers can reduce anxiety during medical procedures, such as MRI scans. (Rens van Mierlo)
The hospital is becoming a service centre, a highly specialized environment that hones in on the individual’s experience

The success of a treatment relies on more than the medical intervention, however, as seen in a hospital landscape that’s evolving by leaps and bounds. Hospital stays are sure to become shorter now that only the most specialized medical care will take place on the premises. ‘Treatment in outpatient settings will increase,’ says Stuyfzand. ‘Medical innovations are advancing rapidly, and treatments that once required surgical intervention can now be done using minimally invasive techniques in many cases.’

Less invasive surgery is leading to a rethinking of the services hospitals have to offer. This is laudable, says Stuyfzand. ‘The longer you remove a person from their social environment, the more negative the effect on their healing.’ The question, then, is where, with whom and how will we get well? Besides the individual care provided by visiting nurses and recovery centres, organizational options that fast-track recovery include the creation of an online profile and the submission of external laboratory data, such as blood and urine analyses, made at the request of the hospital. Another recent position is that of the case manager, a consultant who is involved with a patient’s care from the moment of intake and who acts as a mediator between the patient and the medical team. ‘Information and emotions can sometimes overwhelm patients and make it difficult for them to make the right choices,’ says Stuyfzand. ‘Our whole conception of healthcare is being overhauled. Designers play a key role in this process, because they are quintessential in visualizing data – from patient satisfaction to productivity per square metre – and in translating the information into empathic environments. Design can facilitate spaces that heal.’

The patient, certainly in the future, is a consumer with choices, says Stuyfzand, who sees a starring role for the empathic designer. ‘Designers are good at bringing people together. Unlike specialists such as architects, designers have their fingers in every pie. Empathy comes naturally to the designer, who recognizes what people want and knows how to translate, visualize and explain intangible elements. Intuition helps the experience designer to respond to the hospital patient’s individual needs. The strength of design lies in its holistic attitude, but design also plays an important facilitating role in a co-creation process that directly involves caregivers and all key stakeholders in hospital organizations.’

What does this mean in practice? The hospital is becoming more and more of a service centre, a highly specialized environment that hones in on the individual’s experience while being efficient as well. Chances are that some people will see it as impersonal, though. You check in online beforehand, spend a brief time in the waiting room, receive your treatment and walk out the door. Aftercare happens at home or elsewhere. ‘Hospitals are extremely cost-intensive environments. If we can have ten rather than five people undergo an MRI or a CT scan per hour, that’s a good thing. It’s also important from an economic perspective to have people in the hospital for as short a time as possible, but you do run the risk that they will feel somewhat depersonalized.’

For inspiration in the fields of service, experience and logistics, Stuyfzand keeps an eye on airports, such as Amsterdam Airport Schiphol. He looks at how lounges are furnished, with seats that are both safe and comfortable for short-term use, and reviews the airport’s logistics. As a passenger, before leaving home you check in online, select your seat, state your dietary wishes, indicate the number of bags – even request a courier service to pick up your baggage, allowing you to hop on the plane, unencumbered. It’s an approach that befits the hospital of the future, he says: intelligent, serviceable, personal, efficient and safe. The patient has uninterrupted access to a care network from home, a neighbourhood medical centre and admission to specialized hospitals.


Adaptive healing rooms that offer intuitive user interfaces can be tailored to the needs of both staff and patient.
As senior creative director at Philips Design Healthcare, Jos Stuyfzand works on the optimization of hospital environments.


1 DISTRACT THE PATIENT Offering the patient an iPad or another visually enticing interactive device during a stressful procedure reduces anxiety, which can translate to reduced brown-fat intake and more accurate scans.

2 ALTER THE ANTICIPATED EXPERIENCE Transform the waiting room and change a long wait into a pause. Current waiting rooms make people nervous and restless as the wait gets longer, whereas a moment’s rest boosts energy levels and promotes relaxation. The outcome is a more receptive patient and a less strained consultation.

3 KEEP IT SHORT Everything in a hospital is aimed at keeping the stay as short as possible. After all, the duration of the time away from home influences the speed of recovery. ‘Short’ is a word that also applies to wayfinding inside the building, for patients, visitors and medical staff. A wayfinding design that benefits pedestrian flow is essential.

4 USE DAYLIGHT TO HEAL Daylight is crucial to the healing process. The architects of most new-build hospitals pay attention to the orientation of patient rooms, which should face west. Direct daylight has a positive effect on the wellbeing of physicians and visitors.

5 STIMULATE THE SENSES Replace static lighting with dynamic lighting. Experts on hospital design are convinced that people thrive in environments in which light, image, sound and touch merge to form a holistic experience.

6 MAKE IT PERSONAL Adaptive healing rooms with highly intuitive user interfaces help patients to create soothing environments tailored to personal needs.

7 REDUCE STRESS Children who have to undergo an MRI scan are often less anxious when their favourite cuddly toy goes into the ‘tunnel’ with them. Stress reduction also provides a more accurate scan and thus better treatment.

8 PROVIDE SUPPORTIVE AIDS Integrated ‘reading rooms’ engage medical professionals in meaningful discussions on the next generation of technology-enabled healthcare environments. How can such spaces be designed to stimulate team interaction and collaboration? Private lounges help surgeons to relax between operations in a reality-like environment that features family photos, living-room acoustics and artificial daylight.

9 FACILITATE COLLABORATION Healthcare is a co-creative field based on patient-centric thinking. Facilitating cooperation among patients, relatives and clinical teams is important. Healing that occurs in such a climate should be supported by service provision and consumer thinking.