Little

Jul 10, 2024

min

by Elmira Shojaei

Enhancing Cancer Care with Patient-Centered Infusion Center Design

The journey of a cancer patient, from diagnosis through treatment and beyond, encompasses a profound emotional and physical toll that few can fully grasp until they experience it firsthand. The uncertainty of a potential cure, the myriad side effects of treatment, and the logistical and emotional challenges create an overwhelming burden.

In my own experience, when my mother was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2021, I found myself grappling with these realities from over 8,000 miles away, on a different continent. Navigating unfamiliar healthcare systems in my hometown added complexity to an already daunting situation, underscoring the critical need for environments prioritizing patient comfort and support.

Cancer patients face a unique set of challenges once diagnosed, and their journey through treatment is often fraught with uncertainty and emotional distress. Understanding and addressing these challenges is crucial in designing cancer and infusion centers that support patients’ physical and emotional needs.

UNDERSTANDING THE CANCER PATIENT EXPERIENCE

When a patient learns they have cancer, the emotional toll is immense, characterized by fear, uncertainty, and stress. My personal experience with my mother’s breast cancer diagnosis highlighted these challenges. Spending time with her, I gained insights into what patients endure and what design elements can help alleviate some of their burdens.

Through my time with her, I observed firsthand the strain and anxiety that accompany such a diagnosis. This experience underscored the importance of creating supportive environments that provide comfort and ease the journey for cancer patients.

KEY CHALLENGES FOR CANCER PATIENTS

Cancer patients often contend with a host of challenges that can profoundly affect their lives. One of the primary difficulties is dealing with the side effects of medications, which can include nausea, fatigue, pain, and cognitive changes, each contributing to an overall sense of physical and mental exhaustion. Additionally, the high cost of cancer treatment can lead to significant financial stress, a phenomenon often referred to as financial toxicity, which adds another layer of burden to an already strenuous journey.

The relentless demands of ongoing treatments can significantly reduce a patient’s quality of life, interfering with daily activities and responsibilities and making it difficult to maintain a semblance of normalcy. Moreover, cancer treatments themselves can sometimes increase the risk of developing secondary cancers, adding to the patient’s anxieties about their health and future.

Navigating the practical and emotional aspects of care is another major challenge. Patients must often manage complex healthcare systems, coordinate various appointments, and make critical decisions about their treatment plans—all while coping with emotional distress. The unpredictability of disease progression can be particularly daunting, leaving patients to grapple with an uncertain future and the constant worry of what lies ahead.

Lastly, symptom-related suffering, including pain and discomfort, can significantly impact a patient’s well-being. Symptoms not only affect their physical health but also their mental and emotional state, making the journey through cancer treatment a multifaceted struggle that demands comprehensive support and care.

DESIGN CONSIDERATIONS FOR PATIENT COMFORT

Enhancing patient experience through thoughtful design can significantly reduce stress and promote healing. Here are some design strategies that can improve patient comfort:

  1. Personalized Environment Control
    Allowing patients to adjust their environment, such as temperature, lighting, sound, and technology, can significantly impact their comfort and emotional well-being. Providing amenities like nutrition services and creating calming environments are also impactful.

  2. Privacy and Visibility
    Maintaining patient privacy while ensuring they feel cared for is essential. This includes sound insulation, visual privacy during treatment, and dedicated spaces for private consultations.

  3. Psychosocial Support
    Cancer treatments like chemotherapy and radiotherapy can be challenging. Providing access to dietitians and psychologists can help patients manage their dietary needs and emotional health. Educating patients about their treatment process and maintaining transparency can reduce stress and improve their overall experience.

  4. Access to Comprehensive Services
    Easy access to various services, including dietitians, psychologists, pharmacies, and hair salons, can significantly enhance patient comfort. Offering these services in one location reduces the burden on patients and supports their overall well-being.

  5. Positive Distraction and Engagement
    Access to daylight and nature has been proven to reduce stress and promote healing, mood, productivity, and mental health. Incorporating natural light, outdoor views, and green spaces can positively impact patient well-being. Aesthetic elements that create a welcoming and comfortable environment, resembling home or a hotel, can also enhance the patient experience. Soft cove lighting provides an ambient bright environment to calm patients. Art therapy programs, rotating art exhibits, music therapy, healing gardens, interactive digital displays, and group activities can be positive distractions during this journey.

INVOLVING COMMUNITY IN DESIGN

Involving community members and staff in the design process is important. Gathering feedback from those interacting with patients daily helps identify and address challenges effectively. Surveys and stakeholder engagement can inform design decisions that enhance patient and staff experiences.

Flexible space design can support patients and their families throughout the treatment journey. Standardizing room layouts can help staff become familiar with the environment, reducing errors and increasing safety. Logical pathways and a clear flow for patients and staff reduce stress, while simplicity in design and intuitive wayfinding provide a sense of calm and reassurance. Also, designing spaces and infusion bays with adequate room for equipment, patients, and providers allows for the smooth functioning of treatments and the comfort of everyone involved.

CONCLUSION

Designing cancer centers that focus on patient comfort and experience can significantly impact their journey through treatment. By addressing the physical and emotional needs of all users we can create environments that support healing and wellbeing. Engaging stakeholders, including patients, staff, and community members, is key to developing effective and empathetic cancer care facilities.

About

Elmira Shojaei

Elmira is a versatile project manager, healthcare planner, and designer, drawing on over a decade of experience in the AEC industry. A strong advocate for evidence-based design, she is committed to enhancing patient well-being and experiences while optimizing staff efficiency and productivity. When not at work, Elmira channels her energy into her love for painting, cycling, yoga, and worldwide travel.

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