What Factors Can Stifle Healthcare Design?

As evidence for what makes good hospital design continues to grow, architects and designers increasingly are employing evidence based design into their projects, and issues such as private patient rooms have moved from good idea to code requirement.

A 2006 study by HKS Architects identified nine areas of physical design that impact operational flexibility.  While intuitively good design, often these attributes of flexibility are not included in hospital design, resulting in operational inflexibility in a rapidly changing healthcare environment.

Other extraneous factors may be stifling design, as well. Current research funded by Herman Miller and conducted with HKS Architects is identifying these systemic, cultural, financial, human and physical factors, such as the cultural influence of the preferences of powerful referring physicians and the hospital administrators’ need to keep them happy with the hospital. Systemic factors include departmental performance measures that get in the way of true collaboration and new ways of delivering care; codes and other regulations and rapid changes in information technology are also systemic factors. A very important human factor is the ability or inability of caregivers to envision space in two or three dimensions and yet they are still expected to approve drawings. Available capital and operating budgets also are obvious financial factors that impact hospital design. 

Awareness of these factors is the first step in reducing any negative impact on design.  New metrics focused on patient or hospital outcomes are needed to counterbalance metrics that create departmental silos. What factors have caused challenges for your healthcare projects?

–Doug Bazuin

Doug Bazuin is a senior healthcare researcher for Herman Miller Healthcare (www.hermanmiller.com/Healthcare) who has studied all aspects of healthcare organizations. He also possesses 10 years of new product development experience and has been involved with several new product launches.

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