September marks the HEALTHCARE DESIGN Architectural Showcase issue, where design firms compete for a published spot to share new projects that have installed design interventions that improve outcomes. I love this edition, as it is a cross-section of the healthcare design work currently being produced in our industry.
Very few of these projects will be published in other design journals, as healthcare projects just never seem appealing to those editors. Maybe once a year, a special health edition will pick up a project or two, but given the quality and complexity of many of our projects, they rarely see the light of day except for here.
It’s for this very reason that I was surprised to have been chosen as the 2012 ASID Designer of Distinction. We healthcare designers are a rare breed, and an even rarer breed as evidence-based healthcare designers. So having been singled out by my peers from other design disciplines, I feel the need to share this honor with all of you, my healthcare design colleagues, for I believe our time has come.
In accepting this prestigious award at this year’s NeoCon, I recognized the privilege to have been associated with The Center for Health Design (CHD). At CHD, the art of interdisciplinary conversations is not only fostered, but commonplace. Through these conversations, our sector has made the greatest strides in very short order.
In my acceptance speech, I reminded all who were there of the importance of these multidisciplinary conversations. I share an excerpt of it with you here.
What I have learned is that we can spend many hours in a room discussing the virtues of interior design, but until we get to the multidisciplinary conversations focused around a handful of design interventions proven to impact outcomes that are tied to a larger driver, we are only convincing ourselves. These drivers have to be so large that they hold impact on policy and larger national or societal issues to give us the traction we need.
My world of healthcare design has come full circle from the not-so-desirable design sector where I started my career to the sector that will be engaged for the major issues facing our society today.
It took the Institute of Medicine, when in 1999 it proclaimed that 100,000 people were dying needlessly each year, to push a small but effective Center for Health Design to make the connection between a design intervention, the single-bedded patient room, to the reduction in the spread of deadly infection. It was that single design intervention that fueled this evidence-based healthcare design movement.
The most recent conversations around health reform have focused us toward designing environments that are much more efficient and effective at improving care delivery but, more importantly, financial stability for care providers. These conversations about the interconnectedness between design and outcome, and its subsequent positive return on investment have gotten designers to the table pre-planning.
To this end, the next conversations take us out of the clinical setting and into communities as we see that the real dilemma in healthcare is before disease sets in. As evidence-based designers, we will need to develop design interventions for the built environment that contribute to health and wellness. This will be described as human-centered design driven through the conversations taking hold around the driver known as the accountable-care medical model.
At the Interior Design Educators Conference this year, I predicted that interior designers could own upcoming crucial conversations focused on the preservation of human existence through the development of evidence-based restorative environments. It is here where I see the emergence of biophilic design contributing to our success.
I implore you all to own baseline knowledge. Consider EDAC certification, as this design methodology has left the station and is on a very long journey. Don’t let this advantage be taken from us.