«Five years ago, a health complication led my father to spend ten days in hospital. Upon arriving at the health center, he was admitted to a double room, where he was assigned the bed that was furthest from the window. The design of this space was what we all have in our imagination: a rectangular room with a bathroom and two beds, whose headboards are located next to the same wall, parallel to the window and with a dividing curtain that separates one from the other. . As at that time there was no other patient in the room, we had the privilege of enjoying a large space, with lots of natural light and spectacular views of all of Barcelona”. The speaker is Patricio Martínez, architect and director of PMMT Forward Thinking Healthcare Architecture.
But, he continues, a few days later another patient arrived in the room, who was placed in the bed next to the window «After settling in, he completely closed the dividing curtain and left it that way for the rest of the days my father was hospitalized. This changed our mood, since the space in which we found ourselves had been reduced by half, we no longer had access to sunlight nor to the beautiful views to the outside. We had literally become trapped between a blackout curtain and a bathroom wall».
in own flesh
It was this experience –and also the insistence of his mother– that made him wonder, being an architect and with experience in the design and construction of sanitary equipment, to make matters worse, how could it be that he had not yet thought of a double room where both patients had access to the window.
So he got down to work, with the goal of creating a space that would improve the experience of the patient who is in the interior bed of a double room. without harming medical operations. And the so-called “empathic room” was born.
It is configured based on the traditional model that is common in the main hospital centers and residences for the elderly, where one of the beds is rotated along with its auxiliary furniture, its medical gas connections and its closet in 180°. In this way, the occupants are facing each other, which allows them to look outwards without obstacles, facilitates their communication and provides greater distance for the benefit of their privacy. (See graph)
This double room model thus achieves a democratization of its benefits, since both people have a direct view to the window and the views, a greater comfort in the relationship between them, since now they see each other frontally and through the two independent curtains they have greater control of their privacy. «The definition of two areas in the room, one for each occupant, promotes greater privacy between them and in the relationship between the doctor and the patient. This not only improves the patient’s experience but also facilitates the movement of professionals in space,” says the expert.
«We defined that the new design would have the restriction of fitting within the same limits of the traditional model to be able to implement it both in new construction and in architectural rehabilitation. That was the origin of the ”empathic room”an innovative design that provides a solution to the problems that afflict all patients who must remain in the interior bed of a double room, and which has already been implemented at the Nou Hospital Evangélico de Barcelona”, says Martínez.
The importance of the environment
Pedro Coelho, professor at LCI Barcelona and head of the Interior Design Area of this Catalan school, also highlights the importance of understanding that «the environments in which we move influence us both physically and psychologically».
A theory that has been developing for years and has had various confirmations. The magazine “Science” confirmed in the 80s the benefits of plant environments on the health of patients. And in the year 2020, for example, the Carlos III Health Institute also determined the influence of architecture on people’s health.
Within it, a key aspect is lighting. And specifically the development of circadian lighting, which is one that adapts to circadian rhythms and that keeps our metabolism functioning properly. This illumination is in full expansion and allows the patient not to disconnect from the real world, but to follow the natural progress of 24 hours a day. This way, by not altering our biological clock, cases of stress, depression and even pathologies such as diabetes are avoided.
In addition, according to studies such as Beauchemin and Hays (1996), the patients who were in hospital rooms with natural light spent an average of almost three days less admitted.
For all these reasons, Coelho, who also has a degree in Architecture Design and a Master’s Degree in Design and Public Space, highlights the need to create this type of environment both in health centers and in other types “to get the most out of a world like interior design, usually oriented towards a commercial objective, but which It also influences our health.».