The healthcare design industry is based on the cornerstone tenet that the design of healthcare facilities directly impacts patient outcomes, safety, and staff productivity. Research has been essential in connecting these dots and is at the core of the evidence-based design movement.
Research helps to ensure buildings meet the needs of patients, families, and staff. This means, for example, addressing physical requirements, such as accessibility, but also emotional and psychological needs.
Healthcare facilities incorporating research-backed design strategies have seen many benefits, including improved patient satisfaction scores and reduced lengths of stay.
Growing this body of research is critical to continually raising the bar on building performance. In fact, compared to other industries, research into healthcare facility design is still in its infancy due to various challenges.
Aspects of healthcare design research
Unlike many building design types, healthcare facilities deal with a host of privacy issues and access to sensitive data that systems are often hesitant to share. The kind of work that happens in healthcare settings also makes field work more challenging.
Lastly, finding the funding and internal staff support to conduct research continues to be a challenge, as once a healthcare building goes into use, it’s fully enmeshed in the business of providing care.
More research is needed to build a solid foundation of knowledge in this field. A larger body of quality research could also allow for comparison and analysis of different design solutions, as we saw with studies on single- versus double-bedded hospital rooms, and help to identify best practices in the field.
Overcoming research challenges
Too frequently, even when design teams intend to conduct post-occupancy research, the funding and staffing challenges mentioned previously prevent research projects from moving forward. As an industry, we need to work on solving this, potentially through innovative partnerships with universities and government funders.
Developing a more extensive database of research citations would provide architects, engineers, and healthcare providers with the information they need to make informed decisions and help advance the field of healthcare facility design.
Ways to contribute healthcare research [hed2]
Health Environments Research & Design (HERD), a peer-reviewed journal incubated at The Center for Health Design and published by SAGE Publishing, is our industry’s primary repository for research on health environments.
It features research and methodology papers, theory articles, case studies, and book reviews focused on the effects of health environments and design on patient, provider, and organizational outcomes. It has grown in scope and size alongside the growth of the healthcare design market and is accepting submissions year-round.
You can contribute to growing this body of knowledge and preview new research before it’s published by signing up to be a HERD reviewer. For more information, visit healthdesign.org.
Ultimately, industry-wide investments in research will create healthcare facilities that promote healing, reduce stress, and enhance patient care, leading to improved patient outcomes and a better healthcare system for everyone.
Debra Levin is president and CEO of The Center for Health Design. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.