As announced in March, The Center for Health Design is excited to be developing a new set of tools to complement an evidence-based approach to designing healthcare facilities. We're also pleased to announce the publication of our book, Improving Healthcare With Better Building Design (Health Administration Press, December 2005). The book, which is edited by our own Director of Communications Sara O. Marberry, is based on The Center's work and authored by leading experts in the field. Please visit our Web site (http://www.healthdesign.org) for ordering information.

As many of you know, The Center exists to share knowledge and advocate the transformation of healthcare settings into healing environments by improving outcomes through the creative use of evidence-based design. In our quest, we have established a large field-study research project known as the “Pebble Project” (currently 40 facilities strong), which is measuring how design impacts behavioral, organizational, and economic outcomes. Through this effort, many data are being collected and many new design innovations are being tested. The Center hopes to take advantage of the $200 billion healthcare building boom to spark innovation instead of waiting the typical eight to ten years for a great healthcare design idea to come to fruition. We also want to keep the lines of communication open between your design team and our thought leaders. To do this, we need to disseminate knowledge faster.

It is risky business these days to build without some assurance that there will be improved measurable outcomes over the life of a unit or building. Many of our Pebbles are not interested in just building a “better mousetrap”; they are interested in achieving strategic objectives and creating work environments that are safe, effective, timely, efficient, equitable, and patient-centered. They are interested in transforming care to match advanced medical technology. They are interested in improving the healing experience through a better understanding of human behavior, hence reducing stress for all parties and improving the culture in which care is delivered. In order to do so, they are using a design methodology that has the ability to pull knowledge not only from the design disciplines, but also from the behavioral sciences. This methodology is known as evidence-based design.

The cry in the industry, now that we have gotten the ball rolling, is to get this methodology taught to every design team and build the pool of data to a place where we are hypothesizing less and being certain more. I'm not sure we will ever attain complete certainty—the medical field is in perpetual motion—but we can get close. The good news is that we have many innovators and early adopters signed on to create this data pool. The market is ready and the building boom is upon us.

In the past year or so, we have formed a strategic partnership with The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) to disseminate our base of knowledge. This year RWJF has given The Center a grant to develop tools and resources to further assist project teams in improving care, particularly at the bedside. Included in these tools are the following:

  • Issue Papers: A series of “easy-read,” authoritative, referenced papers by various authors on different topics. The first paper is expected to be published this summer.
  • Design Guidebook: A 60-page visual guide with annotated photos, evaluations, and floor plans of project examples. The estimated publication date is January 2007.
  • Healthcare Design Web: An online tool that allows users to explore photos, text, plans, 3-D images, and data drawn from The Center's best-practice Pebble Project partners and others. The expected launch date is March 2007.
  • Evidence-Based Design Assessment and Certification (EDAC): A program that will provide a standard of measurement and help to advance the science of the design process and evidence-based design for healthcare. The program is scheduled to be introduced at the HEALTHCARE DESIGN.06 conference in Chicago, November 4-7.

If you are not yet engaged in evidence-based design, then we hope these tools and our book will make your initial foray easier. The Center for Health Design is a resource available to all. I personally encourage you to use us and to stay abreast of our new tools as they become available.

Designing and building healing environments is getting easier and easier. Is The Center for Health Design in your tool kit? HD

Rosalyn Cama, FASID, is the Board Chair of The Center for Health Design in Concord, California, and President of CAMA, Inc., in New Haven, Connecticut.