The future of healthcare design will see an increased emphasis on the creation of healing environments. Frank Lloyd Wright said, Hospital patients should never be imbued with the idea that they are sick: health should be constantly before their eyes. Although many healthcare spaces promote a functional and aesthetic design, a healing space is differentiated by the attention given to eliminate stressors in the environment. Research has linked poor design to such negative consequences for patients as anxiety, delirium, elevated blood pressure, and increased intake of pain drugs.
A healing environment should also be supportive of the healthcare staff. Job related stress is a common problem among health personnel, resulting in high rates of burnout, absenteeism, and high turn over rates. By focusing on issues such as reduction of noise, which produces a generalized stress reaction that can increase blood cholesterol levels, and increase the need for pain medication, we eliminate a stressor in the environment. With the addition of soothing music, or sounds of water, weather or birds, we can stimulate the pleasure center of the brain, releasing endorphins and impacting the environments affect on well being. The olfactory sense reaches the brain even quicker than the auditory sense. Unpleasant odors are known to increase heart rate and respiration.
By concentrating on the elimination of medicinal smells and emphasizing pleasant scents, healing environments are created. Sloan Kettering Hospital has been very successful in the use of vanilla scents when performing MRI tests, reducing the amount of pain medication needed, effectively reducing costs. Planetree hospitals are designed with kitchens in every patient wing, where bread or cookies are baked daily, to stimulate the senses and promote healing. The senses are an important receptor of how we perceive the environment. A true healing environment supports positive physiology of the human mind and spirit.