Healthcare Design for Introverts and Extroverts: Outpatient Facilities
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  • April 17, 2019

Healthcare Design For Introverts And Extroverts: Outpatient Facilities

Libby Laguta, CHID, EDAC, ACHEby Libby Laguta (originally published on Healthcare Design)

Private spaces energize introverts and social spaces energize extroverts. If the population is divided equally between introverts and extroverts, then what are we doing in healthcare to address the needs of both populations? We’ll explore that topic in this blog series, next looking at provisions within outpatient facilities and offering a few ideas for ways to answer everyone’s needs.

Probably the most dignified and efficient process I’ve ever encountered in an outpatient surgery setting included an exit interview in a private consultation room. After recovery from a procedure, I was dressed and ready to go. The doctor, my husband, and I were shown to the post-op consultation room. I was coherent and my husband was there to hear directly from the doctor the recap of how the surgery went and what to expect in the future. This is the level of dialogue both extroverts and introverts crave. That was well done.

On the other hand, cubicle-curtained pre-op areas within an outpatient surgery center is not the ideal space to interview the patient before or after surgery. Introverts are afraid to speak up because they know someone is in a bed next to them, less than 5 feet away, merely separated by a curtain and hearing everything they say. Extroverts may not have as much of a problem giving information, but they are aware that the staff, family members, and other patients can hear their answers to medication questions and their preparation for surgery. A single cubicle curtain can only provide visual separation and has no auditory dampening properties.

Occasionally, sound masking devices may be added in the ceiling tiles between patient areas and adjacent corridors or passageways. This is helpful to prevent sound from traveling outside the patient area; however, sound still travels within the patient area itself.

Another way to protect patient privacy and allow appropriate family members access to information is giving the family a number designated to the patient. The numbers are then displayed on an electronic board in the waiting area. By posting the patient’s progress using the number identifier, the family can follow the patient’s progress through procedure to recovery. This reduces tension levels, because the introvert may not be as assertive in asking the staff to give a status regarding the patient, whereas the extrovert may be overzealous in questioning the staff for information. Neither has to ask and can see their patient’s progress posted on the board.

The family waiting area also needs to address all options for seating sizes and allow for introverts to remain private and comfortable. Sociopetal seating groups are conducive for larger families who wish to sit together or for the extrovert who is sociable and talkative.

Sociofugal seating arrangements are desired, as well, to provide options for introverts to isolate themselves in the waiting area, perhaps to use their computer and plug in. A long counter/work area is desirable for this function and creates an atmosphere of privacy. Offering a variety of seating arrangements creates an environment where all can relax, ready and energized to care for the patient upon discharge.

Libby Laguta, CHID, EDA, ACHE, is a principal at L2D Interior Design and president of the American Academy of Healthcare Interior Designers. She can be reached at llaguta@l2d.design.

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