Early this year, at the time of the third annual online survey of design research in healthcare settings, the economy was showing signs of a slow recovery. The Architecture Billings Index had been more positive, but architecture firms were expecting revenue gains of just more than 1% for the year (Baker, 2011). Both the annual Health Facilities Management/ASHE construction survey and the AIA Consensus Construction Forecast panel were projecting modest gains in the healthcare sector for 2011, but nowhere near the activity seen in 2008 (Baker, 2011; Carpenter & Hoppszallern, 2011).
However, despite a lack of financing and uncertainty surrounding healthcare legislation and associated reimbursement, the need to replace aging infrastructure and upgrade facilities to accommodate new technology and equipment (as well as meet patient expectations) has resulted in an industry sector better off than the commercial or industrial sectors.
With the outlook for an economic recovery still uncertain, there are many questions surrounding the future of healthcare facility projects; however, most of the more than 1,300 respondents to the survey continue to use design research and evidence-based design (EBD) in their projects. This year’s survey respondents represented a preponderance of members of the consulting design team (architects, interior designers, etc.) but also reflected views from those within provider organizations, as well as researchers, vendors, and others. The survey is structured through several topic areas, including: awareness, information sources, acceptance, application of features, and data collection and dissemination.
Highlights of the survey will be shared during the session "3rd Annual Design Research Awareness Survey" being held at HEALTHCARE DESIGN.11 FROM 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. in Governor's Ballroom A.
Results for Year 3 indicate the surveyed audience is well aware of design research in healthcare settings, with nearly 82% of respondents indicating some or regular use of design research. With an increase in the overall number of respondents, and the rise of responses to design research awareness in both the “know, but haven’t used it to make decisions” and “never heard of it” categories, there are indications the survey is reaching additional newcomers this year. When asked more specifically about EBD, 72% indicated sometimes or regularly using this process.
While fewer than 2% of respondents indicated not knowing about research on how the design features of the built environment can improve healthcare-related outcomes, 3% indicated they are not familiar with the term EBD. This is an additional indication that more respondents for this year may be newer to the healthcare design field. This is not unexpected, as healthcare has suffered less than other industries during the economic downturn, and many have turned to this sector to expand a base of work. However, with no statistically significant change in the awareness of the term EBD, it appears that the term continues to have wide use within the industry.
Gathering strategies and using information sources
The number of significant changes in the category of gathering information reflects the state of the economy between the first and third years of the survey. In Year 2, travel restrictions and budget controls were commonplace. This continued through the survey period for Year 3 and was reflected in another decline in the use of site visits, benchmarking, and conference attendance—all strategies that could incur significant costs. Declines also continued in the use and awareness of online literature databases (often paid subscriptions) and online research summary databases.