As healthcare and design professionals, we are all aware of the impact the design of the built environment has on patient outcomes and staff experiences. However what is the importance of artwork in a healthcare facility?  

Two members of The Center for Health Design’s Board of Directors, Rosalyn Cama, FASID, EDAC, President of CAMA Inc. and Barry Rabner, President and CEO of the University Medical Center of Princeton at Plainsboro, were recently asked that very question.

In a recent article, Cama and Rabner discussed the importance of strategically displaying artwork in healthcare facilities.  

Research has shown that patients experience a number of positive physiological effects when exposed to works of art during treatment—particularly paintings that depict serene nature scenes with spacious foregrounds. And it’s not just patients that benefit—artwork skillfully placed creates a comfortable and pleasant environment that is beneficial to patients, staff, and visitors. 

Studies suggest that exposure to artwork with views of nature can also reduce cortisol levels, stabilize blood pressure, and help to control the vital signs of recovering surgical patients. These are good reasons to include the visual arts when you are defining your evidence-based goals and objectives—step one of the eight-step evidence-based design process as determined by the EDAC program. 

Also, striving to effectively display artwork can help a healthcare organization forge meaningful connections with its surrounding community. For example, Princeton displays pieces created by local artists, and has formed an Art for Healing committee made up of both of hospital staff and community members. 

So, while creating a facility that is conducive to healing starts with a sound building design, there is much more we must take into account. I can’t help but think of one of my favorite quotes:  “The details are not the details. They make the design.”—Charles Eames

Julie Kent is passionate about the intersection between operations and space with a focus on improved performance outcomes. Throughout her 12-year career in healthcare planning, Julie has developed a "systems-based approach" to infusing operational planning and evidence-based design into the strategic visioning, master planning, functional programming, and architectural design process. A senior healthcare planner at Eppstein Uhen Architects, Julie works with hospitals of all sizes throughout the U.S. and Canada. Over the last six years, she has volunteered her time to the development of the EDAC program and is currently the EDAC Advisory Council chair.