Designers of new hospitals want to make them look more like luxury hotels. But that can be a challenge as heightened concerns about protecting staff and patients from physical violence force designers to build in more security features.
Healthcare architects are being asked to create healing, homey environments that also keep people safe—while avoiding the use of obvious, anxiety-provoking security measures like barbed wire fences. That's particularly a challenge in designing emergency departments, which are seeing greater numbers of psychiatric patients for whom the hospital may not be able to quickly find an inpatient psych bed.
“We're getting closer to a concierge model in a hotel and high-security measures work against that,” said Dennis Kaiser, a principal in the Boston office of architecture firm Perkins & Will.
At a UnityPoint Health facility addition under construction in Rock Island, Ill., that will be part heart center and part emergency department, if an agitated patient arrives for behavioral-health stabilization or assessment, a sliding metal “garage door” can be lowered to separate the patient from equipment and supplies. Patients can also be monitored via camera and by staff in an adjacent stabilization unit which features a living room-style environment equipped with soft lights, easy chairs, a TV and a saltwater aquarium.