Reading between the lines
After months of anticipation and a fair bit of buzz, a copy of Evidence-Based Healthcare Design, a new book by Rosalyn Cama, FASID-also the Board Chair of The Center for Health Design and a member of the HEALTHCARE DESIGN editorial board-finally landed on my desk. Published by John Wiley & Sons and endorsed by The American Society of Interior Designers (ASID), the book walks readers through the four key steps in the evidence-based design process, including many references to existing facilities and illustrations to make the point for the many of us who don't consider themselves experts on the methodology. Roz did a bang-up job on the book, and I would recommend it to anyone with an interest on getting a handle on just what that elusive term “evidence-based design” means today.
I say “today” because, though the term itself won't change its meaning, the “evidence” that the movement is based on is an ever-shifting base that might come up with significantly different conclusions over the next few years-or even months and weeks-if there are even concrete conclusions to be had.
This constant movement has led to some controversy and confusion over the years, and in some cases, a skepticism that seems on the surface to be at least somewhat justified: “What does the result of a study in a children's hospital in Colorado have to do with the heart center I'm building in Pennsylvania?” “All evidence is irrelevant after a few months because things change so rapidly in this market.” “There isn't enough evidence out there to base any scientific conclusions on, let alone any that I'm going to spend money implementing into my facility.”
Reasonable objections all, but somewhat missing the point, I'd say. To me-and I admit, I'm not an expert, I just play one on TV-evidence-based design should be taken for what it is and nothing more: the results of someone else's experience that may help to inform your own. Evidence-based design isn't a cure-all, merely a tool. Use it wisely and in the proper circumstances and it can be most useful; rely on it to do all the work for you and you'll likely end up with some less-than-optimum results. Blindly shoehorning someone else's experiences into your own seldom works, but it never hurts to take advice as to what has worked for others. Ultimately, the decision rests with you, as it should.
Todd Hutlock, Editor-in-Chief
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Healthcare Design 2009 April;9(4):6