All it took for me was one night in the hospital with my daughter, going from sleeping upright in a bedside rocker to a hard vinyl couch that was at least six inches too short, to understand the importance of comfort for both patients and caregivers.

So it’s exciting to see healthcare projects that are making strides toward that effort. These improvements in accommodations involve welcoming outdoor spaces; in-room desks where parents can work or stay connected to the outside world; private lounge areas for catching a bite to eat and/or connecting with other families in similar situations; and (thankfully) comfortable furniture.

While this idea of inclusion may be a new area of focus for some, in other parts of the world it’s a cultural tradition.

“If you say India is a very community oriented place, Bengal would stand out even within India for that,” says Jayashri Deshmukh, senior associate, architecture, Cannon Design (Toronto).

So when Cannon Design began work on the Tata Medical Centre Cancer Hospital in Rajarhat, West Bengal, India, designers needed to understand that patients would be arriving with multiple family members, who actually become part of their care team.

“As part of the design process, we thought of the design of all the public spaces as being underpinned by this notion of community,” says Mark Erdly, principal, Cannon Design.

That focus led to a number of design initiatives, including a central courtyard where staff, patients, and their families are invited to mingle, enjoy some fresh air, or take a moment of respite. In the patient wards, the threshold between the patient beds and nurses’ areas includes built-in benches for family members wishing to stay a few hours or overnight. The wards also have nearby outdoor terraces for gathering. And a low dependency unit building on the hospital campus allows patients who need longer care to actually stay with their families.

Elements like these support the notion that families and friends are an important part of the healing process. After all, a happy patient means there’s also a happy parent, sibling, or caregiver standing nearby.

The Tata Medical Centre Cancer Hospital won a Citation of Merit in the 13th annual Healthcare DesignArchitectural and Interior Design Showcase. For more on this project and the showcase, check out HCD’s September issue.