In the second of our two-part series on big ideas in healthcare, we are looking at wellness.

In the first of these feature articles, we looked at the circular economy. This time it is the turn of wellness. These ground-breaking concepts are advancing what have become relatively familiar ideas about wellbeing and sustainability and taking them to a new level. For more about the circular economy, see the previous article. For more about wellness, read on.

So, what exactly is wellness all about, and how does it fit into the healthcare world?

About Wellness

The term “wellness” has been used in the corporate world since it was first coined in the 1950s while governments have generally preferred “wellbeing”. The two terms are closely related and may often be used inter-changeably. According to a New York Times article from 2010, the idea of wellness was inspired by the preamble to the World Health Organisation’s 1948 constitution: “Health is a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.”

A wellness model invented by Dr Jack Travis in the 1970s described the illness-wellness continuum in which individuals moved from poor health to an optimal state of wellbeing with responsibility for health shifting from clinical hands to the individual.

The Global Wellness Institute, a non-profit organisation dedicated to promoting the idea, defines it as “the active pursuit of activities, choices and lifestyles that lead to a state of holistic health”. Wellness differs from wellbeing, it says, because it is about intention and activities rather than a state of mind.

Given this focus on lifestyle choices and individual responsibility, it is not immediately apparent how wellness fits into a healthcare context, much less a hospital scenario. Look a little deeper, however, and it is not so difficult to see how wellness relates to hospital design and operation.

 How wellness works in hospitals

Wellness is a holistic approach that goes beyond physical health and includes factors that ought to be balanced in a thriving individual, and which healthcare providers can support.

Most definitions of wellness list several of these factors. Here are the top six from the Global Wellness Institute.

  • Physical: A healthy body through exercise, nutrition, sleep, etc.
  • Mental: Engagement with the world through learning, problem-solving, creativity, etc.
  • Emotional: Being in touch with, aware of, accepting of, and able to express one’s feelings (and those of others).
  • Spiritual: Our search for meaning and purpose in human existence.
  • Social: Connecting with, interacting with, and contributing to other people and our communities.
  • Environmental: A healthy physical environment free of hazards; awareness of the role we play in bettering rather than denigrating the natural environment.

It would be a useful exercise for hospital managers and others responsible for patient wellbeing to go through this list with an entirely open mind and think about how each of these factors could be addressed more effectively in the hospital setting.

These ideas can be developed even further as the NHS and related services move closer to a rounded approach covering clinical work, social care and public health.

Within hospitals, it is generally understood that patients who have a good all-round experience will recover more swiftly than those who do not. Wellness-design features in hospitals are linked to higher patient satisfaction, enhanced healing and health outcomes and shorter patient stays. There are also HR benefits with lower staff turnover, better staff concentration and improved staff retention.

This is backed up by research including some eye-opening results from a study of patients in new wellness-oriented rooms at the University Medical Centre of Princeton.

  • Patients asked for 30 per cent less pain medication
  • Patient satisfaction soared from 61 per cent to 99 per cent
  • Recovery and rehabilitation times decreased
  • Meal ratings improved (though meals remained the same)
  • Infection and accidents rates decreased

How modular hospital structures support wellness

Clearly, healing environments that are not simply clinical go a long way to helping patients feel relaxed and comfortable. Take healthcare pods for example, such as those we supply.

Modular systems are purpose-designed to convert existing hospital rooms and buildings as well as to create entirely new healthcare facilities in open spaces to meet emergency requirements. As you would expect, good installations allow for the highest standards of infection control and cleanliness, but they also offer additional features to support patient wellbeing.

To avoid patients feeling lonely or becoming depressed, human interaction is crucial. If you look at our double pod with nurse station (pictured above), for example, you will see a central area with large windows to let clinical staff observe and communicate easily with multiple patients, in accordance with UK Government guidance HBN 04-01.

This kind of layout enhances patient wellbeing by allowing patients to see staff from inside their room, providing a distraction and reducing the feeling of isolation. It also ensures patients have ready access to staff, making it easier for them to get information about their treatment, which can be very reassuring in a stressful situation.

To create a pleasurable and practical environment, look for pods that are available in a choice of easy-to-clean materials with graphics and finishes that can be tailored to the hospital’s wayfinding scheme. A large selection of colours and graphics can be used to promote positive distraction and mental well-being.

Another option is a whiteboard surface to enhance staff and patient communication, reduce paper use and provide creative entertainment. Meanwhile, features such as embedded technology and joinery in the walls allow for integrated fittings, such as glove boxes and sharps containers, and these can be used to ensure a clutter-free room.

Modular hospital rooms enhance wellness through enhanced patient privacy, as the modern materials used in their construction provide acoustic insulation to mitigate noise transmission.

Beyond in-patient scenarios, another healthcare solution that contributes to wellness is the testing, triage or vaccination pod. Developed in response to COVID-19, testing pods allow clinicians to deal with clients face-to-face with minimal need for PPE. Maintaining direct contact and physical separation between clinicians and patients leads to increased patient and provider safety and satisfaction while testing and triaging.

There are even applications outside the clinical environment, with modular building technology used to swiftly create new facilities within hospitals such as multi-faith rooms and relaxation spaces for patients and families.

In summary

The potential for wellness in healthcare is exciting. By raising the bar on hospital design, construction and fitout, it is an idea that can dramatically improve patient and staff wellbeing.

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