How to Use Colours to Improve The Patient Experience

improve the patient experience with colour
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If you want to improve the patient experience, then creating positive emotions in your healthcare practice is a good start. And one of the most powerful ways to evoke a good feeling is through the use of colour.

In fact, studies show that 90% of patients will make a snap judgement about your practice based on the colour scheme. That means a bad interior design could drive away 9 out of 10 patients – even if you offer the best treatments in the world.

It’s frightening!

This article can help you to find out if your colour scheme is helping or hindering practice growth. And it will give you ideas and insights about how to use colour to improve the patient experience.

The psychology of using colour to improve the patient experience

The effect of colour on the brain is one of the most controversial aspects of human psychology. Research suggests that personal preference, upbringing, and culture all influence how we interpret hues.

A good example is the Greek author Homer.

Homer often described the sea as wine-dark in his epics The Iliad and The Odyssey. But the sea in question was the Aegean – to our eyes a bright blue body of water sparkling in the Mediterranean sunshine.

Did the Greeks see colour in a different way to us? Did they differentiate by intensity rather than tone? Did they drink blue wine? Or was Homer just bad with metaphors?

We may never know the answer.

Similarly, the famous blue/white dress meme almost broke the Internet. And it raised an intriguing question: do we all even see the same colours? When a loved one looks at sunset, are they appreciating the same view as you?

Despite this uncertainty, there’s still plenty to learn and consider if we accept that definite answers aren’t a given.

The key is to look at the available information and use it to make decisions about colour in your practice.

The most important thing about
choosing the colour is NOT the colour

Walk into any children’s hospital ward and bright colours will cover the walls. But in palliative care hospice the shades will be restful.

This aesthetic seems reasonable to us.

But why?

A group of scientists studied this phenomenon. And it turns out that the appropriateness of tone is more important than the colours themselves if you want to improve the patient experience.

For example:

  • A treatment room should have a softer neutral tone. Garish colours like bright orange would be inappropriate.
  • In waiting rooms, on the other hands, tones can be uplifting and interesting, with accent colours to highlight different departments.
  • A children’s ward should be cheerful to reduce anxiety and confusion. But a palliative care unit should feel homely, to put terminally ill patients and their families at ease.

Selecting appropriate tones can make patients subconsciously feel better. But they can also be important from a medical point of view.

Why tone matters more in healthcare settings

In healthcare, colour is about more than making patients feel better. It can affect health outcomes too.

For example, colour contrast is critical in dementia care settings. Research shows that changing the colour of a toilet seat to a shade at least 30% different to the rest of the room helps people with dementia find where to sit.

Orange stimulates mental activity and should be avoided in mental health units. Yellow makes babies cry, and can make diagnosing liver problems more difficult. Humans are repulsed and sickened by dark brown interiors claims one interesting study.

It’s clear that colour and tone can improve the patient experience and outcome.

So the next time you’re choosing a theme for your practice keep in my mind that it’s not a decision to be taken lightly.

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