The Importance of Color in a Clinic and the Impact it Has on Patient Anxiety  

Buying or building a new clinic or even renovating an old clinic requires consideration for the branding, the design, and the comfortability, but one of the most important parts is yet still ahead. What am I talking about? The colors you choose for your clinic, of course! 

 Patient care is your number one priority and should be taken into account when considering the colors you bring to the interior of your clinic. It may not seem like a daunting task, but color has a psychological impact and can become a deciding factor for any new patient visiting your clinic for the first time. 

 As a student of psychology, I’ve always been fascinated by how the mind works and how it can be tricked, calmed, or even put off by a certain color. Colors have different meanings and can set off different negative and positive emotions, even different smells and sounds associated with memories.  

The wrong colors can provoke anxiety in anyone exposed, including patients, yourself, and your team. But the right colors can foster an atmosphere of calm and caring and stress-free. In this post, we are going to look at colors from a psychological perspective — how certain colors affect us mentally, what colors to avoid, what colors to consider, and what colors have the ability to reduce stress and anxiety this 2021.   

What is anxiety? 

Anxiety is feelings of tension, worried thoughts, and physical changes like increased blood pressure and accelerated heart rate. It can be caused by fear, panic, or even stress. Those with an anxiety disorder (like me) deal with these emotions on a recurring basis in the form of attacks. I and other people like me are very sensitive to anything anxiety-inducing, including colors 

The reason for this is psychology. Colors aren’t just colors – they’re sounds, smells, memories, whether universal or individual.  

With this in mind, it’s important to understand and consider the colors you choose for your clinic, including the type of baggage they carry and how they might reduce or ease the anxiety for your patients.   

Avoid anxiety-inducing colors 

Patient care starts long before your patient enters the office, but once they do step inside, the choice of color and design determines whether they feel calm and comfortable enough to stay.  

Avoiding colors that can induce anxiety is a good start.  

Stay away from bright, bold, and intense colors. Colors like red and orange increase anxiety and stress, sometimes even fear. Red and orange are associated with an emergency that can elicit images of emergency vehicles with their lights and sirens on. These colors are known to “stimulate our brains which is what you want to avoid when a patient’s mind may already be overactive or overwhelmed.” 

Another color to consider using very little of is white. White is associated with a more clinical feel, and given the current circumstances, a clinical feel elicits negative emotions, including stress and anxiety. Our brains are tricky, making something as simple as a color evoke certain smells or sounds. Much the same as red and orange screaming ‘emergency!’, white is associated with images and smells of hospital rooms. Since smells are the fastest way to our memories, we can become anxious, stressed, and fearful simply due to a bad experience.   

Consider Colors that amplify positivity 

Use colors to make the patients who come to your office comfortable with notes of positivity to calm their thoughts and ease their stress and anxiety.

Green, gray, and blue can be used to calm and soothe. Green is associated with nature, growth, and healing while blue is associated with an open sky and wide rejuvenating ocean. A splash of yellow also radiates positivity, light, and hope.   

Follow Your Instincts 

Psychology is not limited to your patients. So, it is important that as you ruminate on your decision, you follow your instincts. Ask yourself what colors calm you? Check out images online of different clinic design ideas and judge how the colors used make you feel.  

Consider 2021 

The inside look is no longer in for 2021. The year 2020 was not normal and a lot of bad happened, including the dreaded Coronavirus. With this comes the reality that considering 2021 as a factor in your decision is important.  

Because of COVID, a lot of us were trapped inside our homes (some still are), forced to watch as the Spring and Summer drifted by our windows. Outside is now a luxury that many of us have missed during the lockdown. This is why colors such as gray and yellow are popular and “the great contrast highlights what people are looking for most in 2021, color and natural tones.” Gray is a neutral shade and yellow is a sign of hope for the future.  

As you look ahead, think about this: colors and tones that imply we’re all stuck inside are no longer the popular options. In fact, they would probably induce more anxiety in your patients.  

Other colors to consider are those that remind patients and even you and your staff of not being locked down. Consider earthy tones like brown, beige, and green. These color choices have surged in popularity during the pandemic.  

And if you’ve already chosen your color-palette, there are other inventive ways to add more color, such as bringing in plants and flowers, or artwork depicting the outdoors.  

I am not a designer, this is purely psychological 

All these suggestions and ideas are coming from a psychological standpoint only. The anxiety of 2020 and 2021 is high in all of us, and as you talk to others, read more blogs, and consider your own ideas based on your instincts, just remember that each color comes with its own baggage and must be considered carefully.  

Choose colors that reduce anxiety and stress, not just for your patients but for you and everyone else on your team.  

Because I’m not a designer, I went looking around for more informed opinions and insight in order to write this post. Check out the resources I used below and check out their resources, too.