Being sick is never fun, for children or adults. The stark, hostile and barren rooms and hallways of most hospitals make us feel that we are on our way the end not to a positive beginning. It is always hard to stay positive in these environments. With this in mind a few designers and companies have taken the idea of visual healing to a new level by actively seeking out themes that help the ill and redirect their attention from the hospital to the actual recovery.
Most of these installations are dedicated to children’s hospitals and wings, it is also (in these instances) for the parents as well. Of course everyone knows they are still in a hospital but it is a lot easier to be there when surrounded by well-loved characters or space age landscapes, etc. The Royal Manchester Children’s Hospital is set up their radiology department like a space station (Starship X-Ray), complete with murals and a planet (each room is one of the nine) specific theming starting with the closed room doors and inside. Once you enter each room also has a theme specifically to that planet, including landscapes, alien life forms, etc. It is very cute and whimsical and a welcome distraction from the general discomfort of getting your films taken.
Hello Kitty Parent company Sanrio has even allowed the use of its name sake IP for theming of a maternity ward in Taiwan. The theory is that a recognizable and fun brand will help ease the stress and pain for expectant mothers and the soft pink is and blues will help settle the babies. Whether this is a marketing scheme or proof of concept for psychological study remains to be seen.
From fully themed wards to hydrotherapy pools themed to fun-lands, the necessity of making an otherwise required place of misery (in theory) into a fun and engaging place to be stuck is a brilliant idea.
One hospital (A.C. Camargo in Sao Paulo) has even gone so far as to brand their chemotherapy as a Superhero Serum. In addition to branding the packets, they have changed the entire look of their children’s ward to represent the DC Comics Justice League. The children are even given comics that show their favourite super heroes using the formula (see chemo) to regain their strength after being defeated. It is a brilliant scheme to inspire children to get better and the environment sets the scene for fostering that inspiration.
The Royal Children’s Hospital in Melbourne has gone beyond just adding murals and intricate courtyards (though they have done that as well). In their wards they have a living aquarium and even a family of meerkat to entertain children and families.
Even companies like The Disney Company have gotten in on assisting local hospitals in this effort. The Walt Disney Pavilion at the Florida Hospital for Children is a 155 bed, full service facility with a fully themed lobby and experience that starts with patients being met at the curb by attendants dressed like ride operators. The wards and rooms are themed however the hospital keeps all character interaction out of them to not have any pain association with the characters. They are used here as a healing mechanism.
There is no way to completely make the experience of visiting a hospital a happy one, however these installations are going above and beyond to make it a little better. Some have called it marketing to families and not to science but the truth is that any experience that makes it a little easier for patients to deal with (especially long-stay children)while there is worth it. There are many more installations like this that cater to the health community and we will be covering them as we find them, so stay tuned.