In this series, Healthcare Design asks leading healthcare design professionals, firms, and owners to tell us what’s got their attention and share some ideas on the subject.

Al Thompson is a managing executive and studio director with TPG Architecture (Long Island, N.Y.). Here, he shares his thoughts on the importance of branding in healthcare spaces, expanding access to nature for patients, and the growing demand for technology to support patients and staffs.

1.Improving accessibility

Healthcare is spreading out more and more into suburban neighborhoods and expanding its physical and geographic footprint to meet demands for an easy and convenient healthcare experience. Additionally, the accessibility to healthcare systems has become a determining factor for patients, and, therefore, physician offices and clinics should be as convenient to get to as your neighborhood grocery store, dry cleaner, or bank. Real estate searches for outpatient facilities and urgent care centers are like those for a retail store—they’re both looking for locations in high-trafficked areas with good street presence, easy access, and ample parking. Healthcare systems also seek high visibility, so doctor’s visits can be normalized and integrated into our busy lives like any other errand.

2. Consistent and competitive branding

Brand identity and how we as designers incorporate the “brand” of a healthcare system into the physical space has become increasingly important. As designers, we need to understand a healthcare system’s core values, culture, and mission to create a physical environment that reinforces that identity, through color, materials, graphics, and planning strategies. Design of standardized graphics and visual cues can make wayfinding easier, from driving to a hospital campus, parking, locating entrances, and easily navigating within a hospital. This focus on strategic branding will help set healthcare systems apart.

3. Convenience

Healthcare design is being transformed by patients’ life experiences, increasing the demand for options and affecting design drivers. Essentials such as convenience, comfort, and access to technology are becoming the norm in healthcare, and amenity spaces are no longer considered an add-on but a standard feature. Patients want to rest, convalesce, and socialize in different settings, not just in the patient room. Similarly, families and guests expect access to convenient food and beverage options as well as breakout areas where they can connect to their busy lives using a variety of devices. As a result, healthcare systems are looking for more spatial options and incorporating more home-like settings, such as living rooms and dining areas with amenities such as coffee bars, Wi-Fi, and charging stations. These spaces provide convenience and allow patients and their families to spend time together comfortably outside the confines of their room.

4. Technology support

Technology plays a big role in the patient experience, from checking in online to having connectivity during a medical visit to enabling access to patient records. It also affects care delivery, allowing the hospital staff to communicate faster by being able to check-in online or via iPad and digitally share medical records with a team of caregivers to support more holistic patient care and treatment programs. For patients and families, technology also helps them stay connected to each other during a hospital stay, which can help ease anxiety and loneliness during recovery. Hospital systems are now in need of infrastructure that can support the widespread uses of technological advancements, including charging stations, touchdown spaces with Wi-Fi, and telemedicine and virtual consultation capabilities for remote patient care.

5. Creating a comfortable environment

It’s been proven that seamlessly integrating nature into healthcare environments, including views of the outdoors, water elements, fish tanks, biophilia, and courtyard spaces, has significant emotional and physical benefits for patients. This concept is also expanding to include not confining patients to their patient rooms but allowing a change of scenery to recharge and give them a sense of normalcy during their stay. For example, one of our healthcare clients keeps rabbits in a greenhouse at the hospital and brings them into patient rooms for therapeutic treatment. The hospital also houses a plant nursery where patients can go to create their own potted greenery for their rooms. Giving patients a sense of responsibility, a familiar activity, or the chance to bond with an animal greatly improves their mindsets, which can lead to improved patient outcomes.

Al Thompson is a managing executive and studio director at TPG Architecture’s Long Island, N.Y., office. He can be reached at