Helsinki's brand new children's hospital is a case study in patient-centric design

Come take a photo tour of virtual fish tanks, iPad-controlled lights and so many Moomins.
By Jonah Comstock

The first thing one notices walking into the hospital lobby is the giant virtual fishtank on the wall. It’s striking on its own, but if you watch it carefully you’ll notice some strange fish, perhaps bearing crayon-scrawled Finnish names.

The wall-sized screen is actually an interactive exhibition connected to a crafts area one level up, behind the hospital’s café. Children can grab a paper fish, color it in however they like, then slide the picture into a wooden box and hit a button. A few minutes later, their fish will show up and join the others swimming around the virtual reef, animated in 3D.

“We really wanted to prioritize the child and family experience, and give them a lot of interesting things to wonder and to memorize, so that after they get home they wouldn’t remember the ugly things, like taking blood tests or whatever, but they would have memories of stuff like this,” Lahdenne said.

The fish also play into a larger design theme of the hospital.

“The architects’s story of this building comes from the Finnish nature and archipelago, and the names of the floors come from there,” Lahdenne explained. “So this floor [the second floor] is beach, the downstairs floor is sea, and then we have jungle, woods, valley, mountain and space. So it comes from the bottom of the sea, and up to space.”


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Ralf-Gordon Jahns (pictured on the right) is the Managing Director of Research2Guidance, a leading market analyst and strategy consultancy company for the global digital health market.