Architect Derek Parker is a 50-year veteran of the healthcare design industry and co-founder of The Center for Health Design, which is honoring Parker with its Changemaker Award for 2012. He’ll be keynoting the HEALTHCARE DESIGN Conference on Monday, November 5, in Phoenix, so I thought it would be great to give him a call, ask a couple of questions, and provide our readers with a little preview of his session.
About four minutes into the conversation, I chucked my questions over my shoulder and just listened.
Parker has a strong, provocative point of view. (Which, I suppose, is important if you’re a true “change maker.”) He’s passionate about his current role as senior advisor for the California firm Aditazz. What follows is a brief snippet of our conversation, and it’s just the tip of the iceberg on Parker’s thoughts about healthcare, construction, and where we’re headed. I can’t wait to see where Dr. Leonard L. Berry takes the conversation with him on stage in two weeks.
PARKER: “We’ve come a long way in the past 15 to 20 years in terms of understanding the role of the built environment and its consequences, and being able to provide data so it isn't just intuition and opinion. It’s based on peer-reviewed research, and that didn't exist until maybe 20 years ago. … And I think that's good—but a lot more needs to be done.
“In my opinion, we’ve been on a plateau for maybe the past five years where nothing new is happening. I'm getting tired of atria and the same sort of language about acuity-adaptability and same-handedness, and the importance of air quality. That's all table stakes. My question now is, What are you doing for me today? What’s new today? That’s why I became intrigued last year with the notion of transferring technologies from other industries. I’m looking at shipbuilding, auto building, aircraft building, computer chip architecture, and so on to see if those industries have technologies that we can bring across the boundary into our industry. If we can pull that off, that would be a real game changer.
“One example of something we’re working on now is [based on the idea that] patients don’t do very well in bed. But that’s where we put them. People deteriorate in bed, particularly if they're older. And we put them there for several reasons: (1) we know where they are, so that's a control mechanism, and (2) getting them out of bed is difficult. I’ve seen video of five nurses trying to get a 280-lb. guy out of bed and into a chair. If it weren’t so serious, it would be hilarious. On-the-job injury for nurses is higher than it is for construction workers. And our nurses are getting older, our patients are getting heavier, and yet we still design bed-centric rooms.
“We’re designing now a series of devices that makes it easy and safe to get patients out of bed, and a device that supports them for early mobility. We’re designing the corridors in such a way that there's a traffic lane, where people can actually be walking, and graphics that allow them to measure their progress day by day: ‘I made it to the poppies yesterday, so I'm going to make it to the apples today,’ for example. There’s a physician at Johns Hopkins who's been doing this awkwardly, because he doesn't have the right devices, but he’s finding that his patients spend 30% less time in intensive care than previously. That’s not only better care, because they go home in a better condition, and therefore they're less likely to return—it’s also less expensive. Saving 30% of time in the intensive care unit saves an enormous sum of money.”
For more from Derek Parker, join us at the HEALTHCARE DESIGN Conference.