Whole Person Health at the Healthcare Design Conference

The recent Healthcare Design Conference featured many excellent break-out sessions. One in particular that caught our attention, and did not disappoint, was “Whole Person Health: A Health-Centered Design Approach”, presented by Whitney Gray, PhD, LEED AP, Tonia Burnette, RA, and Migena Dilolli, LEED Green Associate, of Cannon Design and Jean McDonald, RN, MS, of ProHealth Care.

First of all, what is Whole Person Health?

Instead of addressing just a single aspect of a patient’s care, the whole person health model takes on a more holistic approach. Taking its roots in Eastern philosophy and holistic health concepts, the whole person health model broadly describes care models that simultaneously addresses the mental, emotional, spiritual, social, and physical for patients and their families.

An important distinction to understand is the difference between simply curing a patient and actually healing them. Healing comes from the acceptance, not the avoidance, of change. In curing, the patient depends on the expertise of the practitioner to control disease; in healing, the patient is empowered to lead their own process of healing and use his or her own resources as needed.


In the Exam Room

This has a direct application to healthcare design, and how the design of space can support mental, physical, and social wellbeing. One example discussed during the session was a patient and family consult room with an adjoining exam room.

Through simply linking the two rooms, the family and the patient can be treated more holistically and kept more comfortable. This is similar to the care suite featured on page 38 of the Steelcase Health Insights and Applications Guide. When an appointment necessitates a medical exam and a consultation, it’s best that each activity take place in the space that’s best equipped to support it. Doors into each room, plus a walkthrough between, can provide multiple ways of access.


In an Infusion Space

Another example from the session was an infusion space:

Patients want options, whether that’s a shared environment where they can connect, encourage and learn from each other, a private room where they can spend time with their family, or a lounge where they can be before or after treatment. Like the oncology treatment spaces starting on page 72 of the Steelcase Health Insights and Applications Guide, a wide variety of choices is important to best serve the patient and their family.

By treating patients and their family in this holistic, whole person approach, the person’s mental, physical, and social wellbeing can be addressed and, ultimately, patient satisfaction can be increased.

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