Biophilia and HealthCare

Rear view of a girl holding her father's hand and walking towards her motherThere are very few people who enjoy being at the hospital. By their very design, they are there for people when they are having some of their worst moments.

Although hospital workers do all they can to make people feel as comfortable as possible, patients are sick, injured or worse. However, there are things that hospitals and other medical facilities can do to try and make things a little better. It’s subtle, but studies show plants and the use of biophilia in healthcare facilities can help staff, patients and visitors.

Biophilia is a term coined by a Harvard University professor E.O. Wilson that says humans are hard-wired with a need to connect to nature in some way. Human beings need and want to be close to nature, to see nature, to be able to feel as though they are surrounded by nature. That calming connections helps feel better about themselves, the world, their current situation.

Studies have shown that places that incorporate elements of plants and nature increase productivity, effectiveness and are generally healthier than a building with no windows and white walls.

How does using biophilia lead to better healthcare and improve things for people in hospitals?

For Patients

There are a lot of reasons that a patient could be in the hospital, but very rarely is it for something good or not stressful. That stress can make things worse for someone who is sick or injured. Waking up from an operation in a plain white room with white walls, floor and ceiling is not actually the best way to promote healing.

Biophilia in hospitals incorporates rooms that have a view of nature. If that’s a forest across the street, or a landscaped and maintained garden or atrium, it can reduce the time it takes for a patient to recover from an injury, operation or illness.

Studies have shown:

  • Patients recover faster if given a view of nature rather than urban

  • Patients given a view of nature spent an average of 7.96 days in the hospital compared to 8.71 for those who did not.

While it may not be possible to ensure that every patient has a window view of trees and nature, there are things that can work indoors, too. For example, plants and nature colors in hallways, rooms and patient waiting areas can help. Having a garden that is accessible by patients during their recovery or an indoor atrium can provide that much-needed nature connection. Even photos of nature on the walls can provide that boost.

The primary focus, of course, is for hospitals to make patients feel better, but there is a financial incentive for hospitals, too. By helping patients recover more effectively and quickly, they can save money on that patient’s care. Just changing a patient’s view could save hospitals $93 million.

For employees

Smiling doctor at desk in clinic

It can be a very tough job being a nurse or doctor. With sick patients and possibly even dying patients, it takes a resilience to be a positive person in a healthcare environment. When employees are not happy, they tend to call in sick a lot and may not work as effectively or efficiently as they could and that can be very dangerous in a hospital setting.

This is where biophilia comes in again. That human-nature connection can improve what is known as “presenteeism.” That’s where employees are physically there, but their mind is not. They are going through the motions of what they need to do, but they are not present to think critically or creatively.

Having plants, the colors of nature, or even access to nature views can reduce presenteeism. It can also increase creativity and effectiveness. In fact, it has been shown that incorporating nature into interior design schemes can help with:

  • Fewer sick days

  • Improved job performance

  • Better employee retention

For visitors

A modern bench in a brightly lit room with windows

Hospitals need to think about the people who are there to visit their loved ones, too. They are just as stressed as patients and, at times, maybe even more so. They are worried, concerned that hospital staff are not as attentive or providing as much information as they feel they should be. They pace around and are stressed out.

Biophilia can assist with this, too. That connection to nature provided by contact or views of plants or nature settings has an instinctive calming feeling to humans. Although having green walls or plants in the waiting room is likely not going to allow visitors and family members to feel totally calm, it can certainly help ease anxiety and reduce stress levels.

What you can do

Fence with vines at Kariadi General Hospital photo taken in Semarang Indonesia

If you are a hospital or healthcare facility administrator, there are some simple things you can do to incorporate biophilia into your interior design scheme.

  • Change the views for patients and staff – allow them access to nature views. This can mean switching up patient rooms so they can overlook nature instead of urban areas and break rooms for employees that do the same.

  • Use nature-inspired color schemes – such as browns and greens and other nature colors in the paint on walls. Not every room or hallways needs it, but rooms that patients who are recovering and employees use regularly should incorporate this.

  • Plants – having potted plants near or in rooms where appropriate and in employee lunchrooms, cafeterias, break rooms and more can help. Lunch rooms or lobbies with Green Walls can provide that green space without taking up much horizontal space.

  • Photos – images of flowers, plants and nature in key areas can also provide that nature connection that humans seek and provide much of the same benefit as live plants or even live nature views.


Does your healthcare facility or hospital need a makeover?

Ambius is a leader in the area of interior landscaping and biophilia. If your hospital or healthcare facility is interested in exploring what can be done to bring nature into your building contact us today.

If you feel that your healthcare facility needs a makeover, but don’t know what it needs, what can be done or how to do it effectively, it might be time to call in the professionals. Ambius has been working with businesses and buildings like yours for decades now and can come up with a solution that will work. Contact a member of our design team today.


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