Medical and healthcare interior design is a challenge even for experienced interior designers and architects. One of the reasons is that it is not easy to find a way to create a unique interior, if most aspects are regulated by law. Creativity play a significant role, because we need to combine role of the interior with the intent to make it pleasant for the patients and visitors as well as functional and ergonomic for employees.
For each type of medical and healthcare interior, we can outline a legal framework, which defines the basic parameters of the design – the size of rooms, their possible architectural and functional division into parts intended for specific purposes. In many cases, the law also defines more detailed requirements for specific equipment elements. In the great majority of cases, it is impossible to indicate a single text of a legal act that would regulate all these issues. Much more often, these requirements are contained in laws, regulations and guidelines, among others, the Sanitary Inspectorate’s. This means that an architect who undertakes to design an office, for example a doctor’s office or surgery, must be perfectly aware not only of higher-level legal acts, but also other documents. This is important because if the non-compliance with legal standards is found, it will not be possible to open the medical office. It is not surprising then that some architects regularly consult the lawyers, and only after a few years they obtain the right experience and knowledge of the law, which regulates the look of the offices. Usually, however, the contact data of the lawyer remain in the architects’ office in a visible place in case they need to consult more complex projects.
Some of the requirements for medical office designs are not codified – they may result from the habits or functional features, which is why various offices may look similar. Some rules cover equally:
Usability is a basic requirement for absolutely all medical offices and surgeries. These functional requirements determine the purchase of finishing materials with specific characteristics, furniture in a specific color, made of specific materials and in a certain color. Functional aspects also underlie the regulations governing the look and design of medical offices, although here the legislator had to make a certain generalization. However, it is sensible to separate the space either permanently or by means of a curtained and separated screen, just as it is logical to have a washbasin and dispensers for the disinfectant in the office. Such conditions are as much legal, as practical.
The functional principles have a very large impact on the possibility of applying specific technological solutions:
all surfaces in medical offices must be smooth - it makes it easier to keep them clean and also reduces the amount of dirt that accumulates. Glossy surfaces are not required - only the structure of the materials matters;
All finishes must be washable or, if necessary, scrub-resistant. This requirement is obviously connected with the above. It is a matter of maximum facilitation of cleaning works, which are routinely carried out in medical offices, even several times a day and as needed;
if there is the furniture with drawers in the medical office, it should extend as much as possible, providing easy access to the content. Although this requirement does not have a legal regime, it is simply a logical consequence of applying the principles of ergonomics in the process of designing medical offices;
In most medical offices, it is necessary to use specific facilities for people with disabilities. It means either the need for a separate place with a lowered reception desk or workspace, or adaptation of the entire premises to the requirements set out in the regulations (this means that it is necessary to install handrails, railings, driveways, etc.);
In addition to the mistakes resulting simply from ignorance of principles of designing doctor’s offices, in many cases untrained architects fall into the traps arising from a lack of understanding of the principles of designing dental or veterinary surgeries. Not in every case, full visual identity, for example, will be the best solution – with too dazzling colors it can create an overwhelming impression. It is equally important not to sacrifice functionality for aesthetics. The latter is important, but the standards established by the law set minimum requirements: it is often a good idea to emphasize the functionality, even if it would be at the expense of aesthetics and, for example, it would force the use of a different set of furniture.
Designing doctor’s offices or dental surgeries is a very difficult task. It does not matter how long the architect has been dealing with this issue – even after many years and with good knowledge of legal and functional realities, skilful creation of the design will require a huge commitment. The basic trap of this kind of designs is the illusion of the ease of the task. Meanwhile, within the framework imposed by law and basic functional requirements set by common sense, it is very difficult to pursue aesthetic ideas in such a way that the design does not give a heavy, overloaded impression. It is the architect and the investor who must set the priorities for a given design, and the task of the arranger is to plan the available space and use technical possibilities related to particular materials so that the space is at the same time comfortable, safe, clean, aesthetic and functional.
Once again, it should be clearly emphasized – even where there are no legal standards, it is worth to use the best technologies and replicate the best models, even if it is done differently in most medical offices – maintaining the principle of the highest functionality with impeccable aesthetics should be the first criterion when designing any medical office.