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Human-centered behavioral health design

Human-centered safety is a comprehensive and holistic integrated design approach, seeing safety and security as seamless elements enhancing the space and enabling staff to focus on the first priority — delivering compassionate and effective care. It includes six critical areas of focus in the design process:

  • Access. This is both physical and emotional. It is an experiential and practical approach to the multiple points of entry and exit. Access emphasizes the power and tone of the first and last impression as well as the seamless physical transitions between those two points.
  • Connections. These are about the continuum of care and how safety and compassion coexist within that space. It examines the healing relationships between caregivers and patients, interconnections of the spaces and activities that support care delivery.
  • Technology. This is a powerful tool, but too much of it can overwhelm and create a false sense of security and an environment lacking dignity. Seamless and unobtrusive, technology connects, supports and enables staff to do their best work in a “smart” facility that protects patients and staff and provides choice and control.
  • De-escalation design. This looks at environments during core planning from the view of a patient to understand negative environmental triggers such as images and light. By incorporating nature, natural light and a sense of beauty into spaces, environments can help patients to avoid negative triggers and gain a better understanding of one’s self.
  • Integrated secure safeguards. These encompass the small and not-so-small elements that make a space complete and can have a large impact on the design of safe and human-centered environments, ranging from handles that help staff open doors without losing control of patients to break-away and two-way hinged doors.
  • Culture. The culture of a care team has a direct impact on the quality of the environment and should be considered an integral part of the design process. The process can affect institutional change and enable an innovative team spirit. If an involved staff learn how to use the environment as a care tool and gain confidence early in the process, it will protect them.

The environment in which patients and families find themselves informs either their fears and anxieties or hope and optimism. Whether waiting to be admitted for a treatment or recovering, everything about the environment has an impact. This human-centered approach creates ideas and improvements for all who walk through the doors of a behavioral care facility.