This issue is dedicated to interior design and interior product innovations. Innovation comes slowly in the health design field. We seem to make little progress on new design concepts when the risk of failure is high and the cost unjustifiable. How many times do you see the next obvious step in improving an outcome through a design intervention or product introduction, but stumble on the approval process? The evidence-based design process has alleviated some of the fear of risk because it is built on a foundation of certainty or proof. Our now acceptable business case reporting of return on investment has helped dispel fears, but the real buy-in comes from the ownership of the new idea when it evolves from a committed involved group. When that process is one-sided-from the design firm only-then it becomes a very difficult case to present. When it is inclusive, with representation from the healthcare organization, it becomes easier. It becomes almost a no-brainer when members of the healthcare organization's constituency or medical consumers are also involved.

In looking for examples of others who recognize the importance of the role of users and consumers in creativity, I unearthed a 2005 talk given by Charles Leadbeater at the Technology, Entertainment, Design (TED) conference titled “Collaborative Creativity.” Leadbeater argues that innovation emerges from highly collaborative teams. He sees peer-to-peer cooperation in open networks, such as Wikipedia, driving new ideas into the pipeline faster than closed traditional production techniques. He also sees intelligent closed organizations moving to incorporate users and consumers into their think tanks allowing them to become more powerful. They will succeed, he states, by “turning users into producers and consumers into designers.”

Opening of MCG Cancer Center February 2010. Left to right, Nettie Engels, MCG Patient Advisor; Roz Cama; Pat and Dennis Sodomka, MCG
Opening of MCG Cancer Center February 2010. Left to right, Nettie Engels, MCG Patient Advisor; Roz Cama; Pat and Dennis Sodomka, MCG

 

One of the most important premises of evidence-based design has been the concept of the interdisciplinary team. For most, that implies that all players on the design team are involved from the inception and are constantly aware of every party's concern and need to deliver a project's vision. To an evolved evidence-based team, it means inclusively having patients and families at the design table as well.

In the last few years, I have been fortunate to work with an organization that fully understands the meaning of inclusive interdisciplinary team involvement. Under the visionary leadership of the late Patricia Sodomka, Senior Vice- President for Patient and Family Services and the late Rick Tobias, Vice-President of Facilities, Design and Construction, the Medical College of Georgia (MCG), has strategically, culturally, and spiritually embraced the concept of patient and family advisor involvement in all that it does.

The process has created an open approach to creating a full spectrum of “Project Wisdom,” (which I wrote about in the book, Evidence-Based Healthcare Design), and has allowed for hypotheses that are consumer driven. What makes working for MCG so easy is that it has structure around its patient and family advocacy program. Candidates, recruited from each of MCG's medical service lines, are trained to understand the importance of their roles and are incorporated not in just one or two sessions but throughout the entire process. Innovation has evolved easily. New concepts in nomenclature, eliminating the concept of waiting, incorporating family into the care scenario, and reducing the stress of an unfamiliar large institution through thoughtful wayfinding have been driven by an evidence-based design process that incorporates the medical users and consumers of Augusta, Georgia. As Leadbeater suggests, MCG turns its users into producers by consistent participation in it's organizational model and turns its consumers into designers by making them an integral part of the evidence-based interdisciplinary design teams.

Design meeting early 2009. Left to right, Jim Kukla of Heery and Rick Tobias of MCG
Design meeting early 2009. Left to right, Jim Kukla of Heery and Rick Tobias of MCG

 

It is fair to say that without the insight and leadership at that institution, none of this would be possible. Tragically both Pat Sodomka and Rick Tobias, within three months of each other, lost their own heroic battles with cancer recently. Their inclusive style in the numerous programs and projects at MCG has inspired many of us throughout the United States and beyond through Bev Johnson's acknowledgements of MCG's model at The Institute of Family-Centered Care. Sodomka and Tobias's true legacy is just what this issue of HEALTHCARE DESIGN is all about-the understanding of how to drive innovation through co-production, a full compliment of user involvement in the design process. Leadbeater concurs. So I salute Pat Sodomka and Rick Tobias for their inspiration, unselfish leadership, the lessons they have imparted, and the lessons they leave for each of us to move an industry so ready for improvement, creativity, and innovation forward. HD

Rosalyn Cama, FASID, EDAC, is Board Chair for the Center for Health Design located in Concord, California.

For more information, visit http://www.healthdesign.org.

Healthcare Design 2010 May;10(5):10-12