Patients prefer living in sun-​​lit hos­pital rooms with col­orful walls, big win­dows and easy access to the TV remote, according to an ongoing study by a vis­iting scholar at North­eastern University’s Insti­tute on Urban Health Research.

Patients want their hos­pital room to be like their home,” says Astrid María Debuchy, an expert in the archi­tec­tural design of health-​​care facil­i­ties who is con­ducting in-​​depth research on the impact of envi­ron­mental fac­tors on patient health. “You can’t under­es­ti­mate the role of the envi­ron­ment on the healing process.”

Debuchy — a PhD can­di­date at the Fac­ulty of Archi­tec­ture Design and Urbanism at the Uni­ver­sity of Buenos Aires — recently pre­sented a paper on trends in health facil­i­ties at an inter­dis­ci­pli­nary con­fer­ence in Cuba that was spon­sored by the Pan Amer­ican Health Orga­ni­za­tion. In April, she pre­sented a paper at Northeastern’s Research and Schol­ar­ship Expo on human­izing the archi­tec­ture in inten­sive care and coro­nary care units.

Archi­tects, doc­tors and com­mu­nity leaders, she says, must col­lab­o­rate on the design of health-​​care facil­i­ties, which should reflect the unique cul­tural, social and psy­cho­log­ical needs of their patients. Building hos­pi­tals according to a stan­dard­ized design, she says, is not the best way to ensure top-​​quality care.

A hos­pital has to be an answer, not a problem,” says Debuchy. “In many coun­tries, the effect of a healing envi­ron­ment on a patient’s health is not taken into consideration.”

Patients who deal with the din of loud room­mates, the lack of nat­ural sun­light or inad­e­quate accom­mo­da­tions for their vis­i­tors report increased levels of anx­iety, according to Debuchy.

Stress is one of the worst things that can befall a patient,” she says. “Patients like to be in con­tact with nature and in con­trol of their situation.”