Healing Environments

As the link between effective design and improved patient outcomes becomes clearer, health care design professionals have suddenly found themselves at the forefront of the industry.

by Viveca Bissonnette

It's no secret that Americans are living longer and that baby boomers are altering our notions of aging and retirement with higher expectations for quality treatment and care environments. Consequently, superior health care facilities are in higher demand than ever before.

Many hospitals are rejecting the bland and sterile clichés, and are instead opting to enlist the help of interior designers to instill cutting-edge technology, hospitality-referenced comfort and style in their facilities. Senior housing has become a standard reference, and health care design continues to grow as it becomes more and more evident that well-designed health care facilities encourage wellness of mind and body. Interior designers are aware of the materials that can prevent patient falls, medical errors and facility-acquired infections, but also the aesthetic details that promote comfort and healing. Each year, established health care design tradeshows enjoy increased attendance from both design and facilities professionals, as well as health care providers, and more and more shows appear on the scene annually, providing knowledge and thought leadership for the emerging direction in health care design and construction.

All of this has paid off with thoughtful and beautifully designed health care facilities being built worldwide. Just recently I had the opportunity to jury the IIDA's Northern Pacific Chapter's 2010 InDesign Awards program. Projects from every practice area of interior design were represented and selected as winners, culminating with the People's Choice Award. The honors went to the Seattle Children's Hospital in Bellevue, Wash., designed by NBBJ. This amazing project, which also took home the award for Best Healthcare Design, is representative of the new standard of superior health care, where design excellence is recognized as playing a vital role in the overall well-being of both patrons and staff.

In the midst of this flurry of activity, there is a small group of design and health care professionals who are also trying to determine what factors lead to a truly sustainable design project through a long-term research project called Leading By Design. These professionals are interested in making sure their projects and work environments are not only successful in the short-term, but sustainable over time. Wayne Ruga, Ph.D., FIIDA, AIA, Hon. FASID, would call such a space "generative," or something that improves over time. Not only does Ruga want to study and pinpoint what factors create a "generative space," he's interested in taking it a step further and using that knowledge to replicate those successes.

The editorial team at IIDA caught up with Ruga for the Fall 2010 issue of Perspective design journal, where I also sit on the editorial board. As we learned, he is immensely concerned with how health care design influences patient outcomes. He also hopes to elevate health care design beyond its current scope, all in a bid to express how design can influence a broad range of factors—health and wellness being only a few of them. Learn more about Ruga and read some early results from the Leading By Design group by checking out the article, "Evolving Spaces," in the Perspective archives online.

As a response to the growing demand for health care design, the IIDA Healthcare Forum provides members with a venue with which to discuss the latest trends and design concepts, as well as disseminate knowledge through education, resources and communication. The forum supports design professionals in the challenging and rewarding field of health care design and acts as a source for exploring methods of design and innovation which create positive, effective healing environments.

More than ever, there are important health care design initiatives and programs to keep practitioners updated on this constantly expanding field. Last November, IIDA hosted a successful program at Healthcare Design 2010 in Las Vegas, Nev. titled "Outstanding Design in Healthcare—Is It Possible?" The program, which was sponsored by Mannington Commercial, set out to discover whether interior designers can achieve the quality of design in health care that is evident in corporate design.

What emerged from the program as a key learning objective was the consensus that health care design—far from following the trend—is actually leading the way in design. With evidence-based and generative design making huge leaps and bounds in the health care environment, what was once a trend is now a way of life. In today's project landscape, the integral members of the design team aren't just designers and architects; they have expanded to include facility managers and hospital staff, and they approach each project from a patient- and staff-centered point of view.

At the IIDA Healthcare Forum, IIDA convened a whole range of today's health care design team, including the design, facilities and practitioner sides. The panelists included: Edwin Beltran, senior associate, senior designer at NBBJ; Lucy Nye, principal facilities planner/designer, MD Anderson Cancer Center; Jaynelle F. Stichler, DNSc, RN, FACHE, FAAN, professor of nursing, concentration chair—leadership, San Diego State University; and Jocelyn Stroupe, IIDA, AAHID, EDAC, director of health care interiors, Cannon Design. Louise Nicholson Carter, IIDA, AAHID, of Skyline Art Services and Morris Architects moderated the panel. The panelists spoke to an audience that was comprised of equal parts designers and practitioners.

One of the lighter outcomes of the session was a collective reading list—blogs, websites and books recommended by the panelists. Some samples from the list include:

To find the full list, visit the Healthcare Forum section of the IIDA website.

Clearly, health care designers are an active and engaged segment of the profession, and IIDA is proud to collaborate with the leaders in this sector to provide quality resources for these designers. Whether you're new to the health care design industry or an experienced veteran, there's something for you in the Healthcare Forum section at www.iida.org. See what your peers are up to and contribute your voice to the ongoing conversation.

IIDA President Viveca Bissonnette is vice president and design principal at Hollander Design Group in San Diego. You can reach IIDA at (312) 467-1950, or iidahq@iida.org. Learn more on the web at www.iida.org.