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Using Art and Design to Improve Patient Outcomes: The Color Psychology of Healthcare Marketing

The Color Psychology of Healthcare Marketing

The way healthcare providers use color and art in their facilities is important physical evidence and an amplifier of quality medical services.

Color psychology, particularly as it relates to healthcare providers, provision spaces, and patients, is a growingly popular and foresightful field of study [1].

Today, more than ever, healthcare interior designers and healthcare marketing specialists must demonstrate a keen understanding of healthcare color impacts and how to improve patient outcomes through intentional design.

To learn more about the effects of art and color in healthcare settings, schedule a color consultation or keep reading. Learn how color psychology can help you improve patient outcomes, as well as what we know and suspect about the role of color and art in healthcare administration.

A Comprehensive Look at Art and Color in Healthcare Design

Healthcare color palettes and the presence of art in healthcare facilities have long been oversimplified in terms of their potential impact. That is especially true when it comes to patient’s perceptions and experiences of services, as well as the measurable outcomes of clinical interventions.

It is widely acknowledged that healthcare art installations and color palettes can both enhance the aesthetics and functional performance of any healthcare environment [2]. Similarly, best practices in healthcare marketing frequently consider how color theory in healthcare company logos and other marketing materials contributes to the development of a credible brand voice [3].

Wellness and Pharmaceuticals Silhouette of Man with Colorful Pills - Generative AI

However, because of their connection to the human psyche, color and art are essential components of any professional interior design; they have significant effects on psychological, physiological, and social responses [4].

Individuals’ physical, emotional, social, and both conscious and subconscious experiences of a space can be altered by color and art. They serve as “physical evidence” for businesses, which is an often-overlooked component of any marketing strategy [5].

As a result, in addition to helping with outbound healthcare marketing and branding, art and color in healthcare design can measurably improve patient outcomes in terms of:

Overall feelings of comfort, confidence, and satisfaction among patients, visitors, and employees; Symptoms of both physical and psychological conditions, as well as the efficacy of various medications and treatments; and Recovery time, as well as patient-incurred and operational care costs [6].

Marketing Materials & Logos

A patient is exposed to the logos and other outward-facing healthcare marketing materials used to represent a healthcare facility before they arrive. As a result, it is not uncommon for healthcare firms to make significant upfront investments in carefully crafted materials for healthcare fields that lean on color theory [3].

Furthermore, because many businesses base their interior design — particularly art and color palettes — on existing branding materials, it is critical to developing a color psychology-informed healthcare marketing strategy from the start.

Maintaining this level of strategic foresight throughout the inception, development, and/or redesign of any business can be difficult, but it is necessary. That is because most consumers (including patients) form an opinion about a brand within 90 seconds of their first encounter with it [7].

Given that almost every patient’s first impression is based on visual impact, it is critical to invest in healthcare marketing plans that take into account (and manage) the patient’s conscious and subconscious reactions to the physical service space.

Color Psychology in Healthcare Design: Common Approaches

As previously stated, healthcare marketing entails the interior design and decoration of the physical environment in which the advertised services (in this case, healthcare procedures and appointments) are delivered, and where customers interact directly with the tangible elements of the company.

Colors and art in healthcare facilities, in other words, are just as important and influential as logos, slogans, and advertising materials.

However, the findings of some empirical studies on color in healthcare design are underwhelming. Color psychology appears to be a complex, multifaceted topic, according to research. The most beneficial uses of color in healthcare design and intentional art in healthcare settings appear to vary depending on culture, geography, and architecture, as well as expected patient characteristics and planned uses of the space [8, 9].

Watercolor Painting of a Group Therapy Session, Mental Health Concepts, Generative AI

Few researchers have gathered enough evidence to develop and/or support the implementation of healthcare color guidelines that are applicable across industries [10]. As a result, it should come as no surprise that the vast majority of healthcare providers base their marketing on similar surface-level color psychology interpretations. In doing so, these companies all reach the same conclusion: paint it blue and hang nature-inspired artwork [11, 12].

Color choices in healthcare design can improve patient outcomes

Despite the fragmented and inconclusive findings of empirical investigations into color psychology in healthcare designs, some targeted studies have produced conclusive results about using color in healthcare designs to improve patient outcomes and aid in the treatment of lifestyle diseases [13]. As an example:

Red colors in healthcare settings have been shown to raise body temperature [14].

Blue can reduce heart rate and blood pressure, promote sleep (for insomnia treatment), and increase patients’ relaxation and feelings of security [14, 13].

Yellow-based pinks, such as coral and salmon, can boost feelings of contentment and self-esteem (probably because these colors complement most skin tones and make people “look healthier”). [9].

human hand holding loudspeaker megaphone with lgbt rainbow flag gay lesbian love parade pride festival transgender love

Yellow can make people feel uplifted, but it can also raise heart rates, interfere with sleep, and cause infants to cry more frequently when used in neonatal units [15, 16].

In healthcare design, “hospital green” and white colors can make people feel institutionalized and have a negative impact on comfort and stress levels [9].

Accent colors in otherwise monotonous or monochromatic environments can stimulate the senses and aid in healing, while also making brand colors more memorable and amplifying their impact [9, 17].

Color theory in healthcare design is unique for spaces serving vision-impaired and elderly populations (who are more likely to have cataracts, glaucoma, Alzheimer’s disease, or other degenerative conditions that impair perception and/or cognition). To avoid confusion and discomfort, use lighter, more contrasting colors while avoiding black, brown, navy, purple, and blues [9].

These findings encourage healthcare providers to consider healthcare colors in their specific contexts. Similarly, modern color theory for healthcare design calls for an awareness of how healthcare color placement and combinations may influence patient perceptions and, ultimately, improve patient outcomes.

Dark colors, for example, can make a room feel smaller; a dark-colored ceiling can make an uncomfortable room feel cozier, and light colors can make occupants feel less confined [18].

Art in Healthcare: More Than Just Decoration

Art in healthcare facilities has a unique impact on patient outcomes. This is due to the fact that, unlike the use of color in healthcare designs, abstract and nature-based healthcare art installations have near-universal benefits across patient demographics and medical specialties [19]. Art in healthcare facilities, for example, has been linked to:

Patient satisfaction with healthcare services has increased [20].

Reduced pain perception and reliance on pain medications, as well as lower heart rate and blood pressure [19].

Decreased feelings of depression and/or psychosomatic symptoms, particularly when combined with chronic illness or difficult treatment plans (including chemotherapy and dialysis) or limited mobility [19, 21].

Treatment times for nonoperative and operative treatments have been reduced [22].

Fewer instances of abusive behavior by mental healthcare patients [19].

Healthcare Color and Art Selections Influence Staff Performance and Operational Costs.

The unanticipated benefit of incorporating color psychology into healthcare marketing designs on-site is a measurable improvement in the quality and efficiency of healthcare services provided.

There are some near-universal employee-level effects of color in healthcare designs — for example, red colors in healthcare designs may increase the number of errors office staff make while filling out and filing paperwork, except among staff who are “high-screeners” (easily able to ignore distractions in their surroundings [15].

When working with red in healthcare settings, low-screeners report higher levels of dysphoria, depression, frustration, and anger [15]. In contrast, the presence of art in healthcare facilities improves staff members’ moods, feelings of job satisfaction, and perceived job success [19].

As a result, healthcare art installations and color theory in healthcare decor not only improve overall patient outcomes, but can also mitigate the negative effects of low staff morale, high staff turnover and daily absence rates, and potentially catastrophic administrative errors.


  1. https://www.healthdesign.org/sites/default/files/color_in_hc_environ.pdf
  2. https://www.archdaily.com/935067/how-colors-change-the-perception-of-interior-spaces?fbclid=IwAR13uNXHvQ_j2D97LHf5pcryphotTBrGt6JfHI8__ucYow5ksICvZHb3zs0
  3. https://99designs.com/logo-design/psychology-of-color/healthcare
  4. https://www.researchgate.net/post/How_does_color_in_healthcare_environments_impact_patient_experiences
  5. https://blog.oxfordcollegeofmarketing.com/2013/08/09/marketing-mix-physical-evidence-cim-content/
  6. https://www.healthcaredesignmagazine.com/trends/architecture/art-healthcare/
  7. https://www.emerald.com/insight/content/doi/10.1108/00251740610673332/full/html
  8. https://www.healthcaredesignmagazine.com/architecture/summary-color-healthcare-environments-critical-review-research-literature/
  9. https://www.healthdesign.org/sites/default/files/color_in_hc_environ.pdf
  10. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4383146/ 
  11. https://www.greymattermarketing.com/blog/standing-out-from-the-sea-of-blue
  12. https://henrydomke.com/blog/2011/01/07/4-essential-ideas-about-art-in-healthcare-2/
  13. https://www.epainassist.com/alternative-therapy/color-therapy-benefits-of-color-therapy-in-treating-lifestyle-disease 
  14. https://lahealthcaredesign.com/psychology-of-colors-in-healthcare-spaces/
  15. https://link.springer.com/referenceworkentry/10.1007%2F978-3-642-27851-8_228-1
  16. https://soa.utexas.edu/sites/default/disk/urban_ecosystems/urban_ecosystems/09_03_fa_kwallek_riosvelasco_ml.pdf
  17. https://appliedpsychologydegree.usc.edu/blog/color-psychology-used-in-marketing-an-overview/
  18. https://www.thespruce.com/paint-colors-change-feeling-of-a-room-1835371
  19. https://www.healthcaredesignmagazine.com/trends/architecture/art-healthcare/
  20. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5328392/
  21. https://news.artnet.com/art-world/doctor-museum-visits-treatment-1377736
  22. https://news.artnet.com/art-world/how-hospitals-heal-with-art-1606699 

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