What's the difference?
Healthcare interior designers have always been a special bunch. Face it: anyone inspired by bleach-cleanable, antifungal, flame-retardant, antimicrobial, low-VOC building products has to be a bit different, and they are. In the year 2003, five visionary healthcare architects and interior designers decided that recognition of this “difference” mattered to the industry, to the hospitals and clients who commission interior designers, and to the advancement of this unique specialty.
AAHID, The American Academy of Healthcare Interior Designers, was officially formed in June of 2005. It is modeled after ACHA (the American College of Healthcare Architects), mentored by NCIDQ (National Council for Interior Design Qualification), and supported by generous contributions from industry partners. Dan Lee AAHID, AIA, ASID, IIDA, the first president of AAHID describes the creation of this organization as one of necessity: “The convergence of healthcare markets, challenges, and trends makes it more important than ever that every professional involved with a healthcare facility bring a depth of experience and qualifications to his or her area of expertise. This is especially true in healthcare interior design, increasingly recognized as a distinct, certifiable field.”
Today, with 91 board-certified interior designers, AAHID is recognized as the advanced certification for healthcare interior design. Additionally, 28% of these specialists hold ASID accreditation. These credentialed professionals are distinct from other specialties in their experience and expertise in healthcare interior design. The board-certified healthcare designer is held to the highest possible standard for safety, infection control, patient welfare, codes compliance, and thoroughly researched design solutions.
On a personal note, what draws me to this accomplished group and their alliance with The Center for Health Design and evidence-based design was that they don't assume to know everything about healthcare design. Instead they continually challenge their best work with the question: Can we measure and prove what we think we know to be true? The process then becomes one in which a design approach is research supported and the information shared.
While “design” is often judged for its obvious aesthetic value, the best work of a medical interior designer is never seen. It appears as a carefully located hand wash sink or grab rail, an effortlessly disinfected surface, a HIPAA-compliant interview booth, or a light fixture that appeals to a patient lying under it for hours. Decades of research have proven that properly designed medical interiors have a direct correlation on infection control, patient recovery, hospital process efficiency, family-visitor perception of care, and employee safety and retention. The vehicles by which to implement this valuable information into practical solutions are The Center for Health Design and AAHID. Together, they question what has “been done before”, measure data, establish standards, monitor trends, and serve as a link between industry professionals, facilities, and similar allied organizations. AAHID promotes the research of healthcare interior environments and continually seeks collaboration with industry partners to develop improved products.
The process of becoming credentialed as an AAHID certificant is regulated by a Board of Regents, which evaluates a candidate's education, portfolio, work experience, and references. A qualified candidate must be NCIDQ certified and pass a rigorous exam, which tests his knowledge of codes, long-term and acute care facilities, healthcare lighting design, healing environments, medical equipment, and accreditation standards, just to name a few topics. The exam is offered twice yearly and is graded on a pass/fail basis. The spring 2009 exam was offered in 35 cities nationwide.
As for me? I am an ASID lifer and recent AAHID-certified designer. ASID has provided the platform from which the entire interior design profession has evolved. ASID's focus on independent living design and support of universal design has paved the way for the success of design specialties. The AAHID advanced certification allows just one more layer of solid design commitment and expertise, and the opportunity to be better designers for our unique clients. HD
Alison LeVino Jones is the President of LeVino Jones Medical Interiors, Inc.
For more information visit http://www.aahid.org.
Healthcare Design 2009 August;9(8):32-40