Evidence-based design (EBD) research has demonstrated the power of environmental design to support improved patient, family, and staff outcomes and to minimize or avoid harm in healthcare settings. While healthcare has primarily focused on fixing the body, there is a growing recognition that our healthcare system could do more by promoting overall wellness, and this requires expanding the focus to healing. This article explores how we can extend what we know from EBD about health impacts of spatial design to the more elusive goal of healing. By breaking the concept of healing into antecedent components (emotional, psychological, social, behavioral, and functional), this review of the literature presents the existing evidence to identify how healthcare spaces can foster healing. The environmental variables found to directly affect or facilitate one or more dimension of healing were organized into six groups of variables—homelike environment, access to views and nature, light, noise control, barrier-free environment, and room layout. While there is limited scientific research confirming design solutions for creating healing spaces, the literature search revealed relationships that provide a basis for a draft definition. Healing spaces evoke a sense of cohesion of the mind, body, and spirit. They support healing intention and foster healing relationships.
Jennifer DuBose, LEED AP, EDAC
SimTigrate Design Lab Georgia Institute of Technology
Jennifer DuBose is the Associate Director of the Georgia Tech SimTigrate Design Lab. An expert in evidence-based design, sustainability and carbon accounting, she is a Principal Research Associate at Georgia Tech. She has helped lead the creation of the SimTigrate Design Lab, a multidisciplinary lab focused on using research and simulation to bring about healthcare value through the integrated, human-centered design of healthcare settings, health IT, products and care processes and cultures.
Lorissa MacAllister, PhD
President and Founder of Enviah
Dr. Lorissa MacAllister is a researcher and architect who is blending her experience and expertise in healthcare to pioneer a unique approach to design in the healthcare industry and beyond.
Dr. MacAllister has dedicated herself to guiding organizations to the next level of integrated performance by systematically aligning operational processes and the environment to improve an organization’s culture, business performance, and user experience. Using evidence-based design and other research; she has constructed a new approach to enhancing the built environment as a tool for its occupants. She speaks nationally to help bring about transformative change that benefits stakeholders, patients, the community, and the environment.
Dr. MacAllister is the founder of Enviah, an evidence-based consulting firm that uses a people-centered approach that is both multidimensional and multidisciplinary. Enviah creates healthcare environments where people thrive while helping healthcare providers more effectively accomplish their mission. Dr. MacAllister and Enviah work to integrate people, technology, systems, and space, ensuring that healthcare environments are driven by health and care.