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Could design save lives?

Design can speak to us, sell to us and even help make us part with hard-earned cash, but it certainly can’t save our lives… can it?

Well, it can indeed improve our health if the American ‘Fable hospital’ is anything to go by.

The Fable hospital is an ideal healthcare facility, dreamed up by leaders in healthcare and design. Design features include extra large rooms, plenty of natural light and artwork on walls, and they were conceived purely to improve the hospital experience.

Several American hospitals have added elements of the Fable design to their facilities, and a recent report from research institute – the Hastings Center – shows they haven’t just improved the hospital experience. No, the Fable design has actually improved health by reducing hospital infections and accidents. What’s more, faster discharges (from less infections and accidents) have actually saved the hospitals money.

For some time, art and music have been incorporated into both the British and American hospital experience. Unnecessary luxuries you might say, but the healing power of art has long been documented*.

As well as improving state of mind, did you know art can reduce pain and the need for sedative drugs? It’s true. It can also reduce time spent in hospital by elevating mood and increasing coping skills.

So the power of art and design is immense. What a nice reminder that it isn’t just there to convey a message or sell us something, but to enhance our lives as well.

Now we just need to see if there’s room for Fable in the NHS budget…

* Transforming the Healthcare Experience through the Arts. Blair L. Sadler & Annette Ridenour.