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Creating colour schemes with patients in mind

Colour in a healthcare environment should do much more than just make the building look attractive. Well-chosen decor can contribute positively to the creation of an environment in which patients can feel comfortable and at ease.

Colour in public spaces

Public access areas within healthcare facilities offer tremendous scope for colour choice, but it is still important to bear in mind the needs of patients, clinical staff and visitors to ensure that these spaces look and feel at home within the overall scheme.

Waiting areas: As most people spend a considerable amount of time in these areas colour schemes should be uplifting and interesting. Visually attractive accent colours can be used to not only highlight different departments, but also to create a modern and contemporary environment.

Corridors and receptions: Hospital corridor areas can often be confusing and look very institutionalised. To aid navigation and way finding, long corridors can be divided with strong accent colours either for directional purposes or department identification. This can be achieved by highlighting certain junctions within these areas. The area behind the reception desk should also be highlighted in order to identify it to the visiting public.

Healthcare colour page public

Colour in patient rooms

Patient rooms should be comfortable, calm, non-intimidating, safe and personalised. Lighting is often subdued, so this should influence colour choice. Excessive use of bright colours can interfere with visual diagnosis and lead to overstimulation.

Ward areas: It is important to keep these areas light and fresh as colours with too much saturation could effect visual diagnosis. To give interest, a softer palette can be used to highlight key features such as behind the sink area, cupboard doors or window walls. It is still important however to ensure these areas give a modern and uplifting impression as patients often spend long amounts of time in them.

Paediatric units: Children's wards need to be interesting and vibrant. Using a simple combination of pure accents can create an impression of fun that is appealing and reassuring to children. Using a clear and unsophisticated palette can help to reduce patient anxiety and confusion by distracting their senses.

Intensive care: These areas need to be calming and restful. A soft neutral colour is recommended in these areas, however to avoid a bland looking environment, muted and soothing accents can be used in small areas.

Healthcare colour page patient

Colour in treatment and therapy rooms

Both a patient room and a working environment for medical staff, therapy and treatment rooms require very careful consideration.

Consultation rooms: Although similar to patient rooms in terms of using a warm neutral for the main areas, interest can be achieved by using a stronger combination of accent colours where visual diagnosis does not take place, such as behind a desk.

Therapy rooms: The types of colours used in these areas depend upon the type of therapy or treatment being given. More physical treatments, for instance would require a stimulating and energising combination to encourage physical activity.

Operating rooms: Most operating theatre walls are green or blue/green in colour. This to counteract the effects on the eye of prolonged staring at the deep red of an open wound. As green is the complimentary colour of red, it is able to neutralize the after-image produced by the surgeon's concentration. A cooler muted palette is recommended for these areas.

Healthcare colour page treatment

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