The economy is not the only thing that has been shrinking over these past few years. With the growing role that technology and the Internet play in our industry, the space between us and colleagues around the world seems to be shrinking as well. On a regular basis, we receive e-mails and calls at The Center for Health Design from organizations and individuals throughout the world looking to join forces, share resources, or participate in our activities. At one time, communications from the Middle East, Australia, and the Far East may have felt exotic and unique, but now they are a common part of day-to-day business.

A decade ago, our paths would not have crossed with some of the people and organizations that many of us today are collaborating with on international projects. Large healthcare projects are worked on 24 hours a day by having offices strategically set up around the globe that allow one project team to hand off its work as members leave for the night, only to have another team pick it up moments later at the start of its day.

These Web-based communities are redefining the design process as we have known it. The lines of communication are so diverse that it's seemingly impossible to know the many ways people are finding one another and gaining access to information.

The Pebble Project, one of the keystone research initiatives of The Center, has membership from the United States, Canada, and Europe. There are active conversations going on with project teams and governmental entities from around the world that are interested in connecting with this global research initiative. With the technology already in place today, the cost for connecting at a global level is as inexpensive as it has ever been. A $25 webcam and free Skype account make it as easy to talk face-to-face with a colleague in India as with one in the next office.

Since the launch of The Center's Evidence-Based Design Accreditation and Certification (EDAC) program in April 2009, more than 500 accredited individuals-47 of whom are from eight countries outside of the United States-have taken part.

In 2009, representatives or delegations from 29 countries attended the HEALTHCARE DESIGN conference in Orlando. They heard experts from around the world share case studies, research outcomes, and design innovations that created a snapshot of the current global perspective.

Building global bridges is even more critical in a world where we are all tied to one ecosystem. Clearly, we are living in a world where our actions all impact one another from an environmental standpoint. The role the design of the built environment continues to play on environmental issues, such as reducing the overall carbon footprint of the healthcare sector through safe disposal of medical waste, decreasing energy consumption, developing new and greener sustainable building materials, and reducing toxic off-gassing of building materials, continues to be a priority that does not reside on the shoulders of one nation. The effort is clearly better served by working toward a global solution. Also, as the global medical tourism industry continues to grow, many of us may find we are looking outside the United States for specific types of care.

There are a few simple ways you can connect with this global network if it's of interest to you. On LinkedIn, there are two active groups that have international membership. The first is the Healthcare Innovation by Design group that was started by a physician. This group looks at a wide array of ways that innovation in healthcare can improve outcomes, and building design is featured prominently in many of those discussions. The group currently has almost 2,000 members. Recent discussion topics include the future of healthcare for UNICEF, the work that Philips Healthcare is doing in the care environment, the Cleveland Clinic CEO's experience as a patient, and the Mayo Clinic's model on healthcare innovation.

Building global bridges is even more critical in a world where we are all tied to one ecosystem.

Another organization to look into is the International Academy of Design and Health. This group provides a visible, global forum for the ongoing exchange of research findings among scientists, designers, and industry. It works in close partnership with an international network of government organizations, leading universities, and commercial organizations to promote human health, well-being, and quality of life through environmental design.

And, finally, The Center is launching a new Web site this fall with the main goal of helping to bring together the global community of participants involved in healthcare design research, education, and advocacy work. This new site will eventually grow to allow users to upload content, have conversations with self-generated communities, watch podcasts and webcasts online, search for the latest research or design strategies in a specific area, and have one location to visit to connect with other like-minded individuals and organizations. The site is currently in the beta testing stage. Keep an eye out for it to launch before the HEALTHCARE DESIGN.10 conference in November.

I welcome you to share your resources by connecting with me on LinkedIn at or follow me on Twitter at I look forward to connecting with you.

The Center for Health Design is located in Concord, California. For more information, visit Healthcare Design 2010 October;10(10):8-9