Realizing Healthcare Design’s Full Potential
I recently had the opportunity to sit down and talk with Michael Kimmelman, the architecture critic from The New York Times. Kimmelman reached out to us because the idea of connecting architecture to health outcomes had been rolling around in his head for a while, so he started to visit a few newly built healthcare facilities and talk to key people involved in the projects. Eventually, his explorations led him to The Center for Health Design.
This isn’t the first time we’ve had the opportunity to share our communal work with the mainstream media, but it’s the first time a writer was interested enough in truly understanding what our work is all about to visit The Center’s offices in California. In the past, conversations with the media have tended to focus on a new hospital or a specific trend, such as the move toward single-patient rooms.
Things were different with this conversation; Kimmelman asked thoughtful questions and delved deep into the meaning and large-scale ramifications of our work.
Afterward, as I was mulling over our discussion, I kept hearing in my head the opening sequence to the 1970s TV show “The Six Million Dollar Man,” with the voiceover describing how technology could be used to create the first bionic man, “better… stronger… faster” than he was before.
As a community, we have the technology to make this evidence-based design movement even better, to grow our singular voice even stronger, and to move along change even faster than we have in the past.
This is not to disparage all the tremendous work that’s been done over the last two decades. The healthcare design industry was born and a diverse community of likeminded individuals solidified. It’s grown into adolescence and made significant contributions to both the quality of care and safety movements. But, clearly, this growth and the resulting changes are not yet the substantial groundswell movement needed to keep them from being “news” to an architecture critic from a major U.S. newspaper.
From his perspective, once he understood our work and findings, the benefits of the principles we talk about and fight for in every project—as well as the obvious connection between the buildings where care happens and the quality of that care—are so clear that it should have taken the world by storm by now. Yet our successes are still reported as singular accomplishments.
There may not be answers yet to how we can fully achieve “better... stronger… faster,” but I believe it’s going to take the collective energies of our entire community. Continuing to invest in research and taking the time to evaluate and share the results of the work we’ve done is critical to our collective growth.
We need even more university programs in both architecture and healthcare administration that focus on the role the built environment plays in healthcare. And we need to infuse the best possible research into our decision-making process and instill this research into our codes and standards whenever possible.
It’s not bionic, but it’s significant progress. And it’s something we all can play a role in helping to shape.
Debra Levin, EDAC, is president and CEO of The Center for Health Design. Follow her on Twitter at @CHD_DebraLevin.