Built for Success

Columnist Jane Rohde discusses the benefits of multidisciplinary teams and how they are paving the way to a new frontier of community health.

multidisciplinary design teams

Healthcare design is no longer the design of a hospital, an outpatient facility, or a long term care setting. The future is community design – healthy, integrated, amenity rich, wellness-focused, education-minded, sustainable, and transportation accessible.

This is healthcare design.

That is demonstrated through the multidisciplinary approach that is required for a successful project – no matter if the location is urban, rural, or transforming suburbia. In a recent conversation on an Uber ride, the young man driving felt that Towson, Maryland, long considered a suburb of Baltimore, had come into its own as a city. I had to agree – a long standing university that is now better connected to the main street corridor, better transportation, less dependency on the suburban mall (changed to the “avenue” shopping concept). There is senior housing for different incomes as part of mixed use and generational housing, health and wellness services available, and opportunities for socialization. 

In evaluating research and looking at university programs, the current student population studying healthcare – whether in the medical side or the design side – are being continually exposed to different disciplines. When a nursing student is part of a team that includes an architectural student and a social worker student, the resulting solution is always going to be improved. For any type of healthcare project, it still comes down to understanding the care model, the operations that are taking place within a setting, all of the users of the project, and the desired outcomes. Collaboration, communication, commitment and cooperation all provide an opportunity to build community in a consensus process. Innovation is based in multidisciplinary team planning. Often in our work, facilitation is also key in reaching the goals of a project. The process is not linear, but ever growing and changing. We also must realize that players change during the design process. Therefore, keeping pace throughout the design and construction process to see innovation realized at the end of a project takes strong adherence to strategy and continually pressing to meet the goals. Mediocrity is easy – excellence needs to have strength, support, and continuity. In some of the projects that we’ve worked on in my office, we have also found that one champion within a client team is not enough. This was realized when the one ‘culture change’ and person-centered advocate left, much of the important work and details went by the wayside. Therefore, we recommend that you have three people that share the vision – a tripod of support, all agreeing upon the desired outcomes. 

In recent years there has been major developments in all types of building and care technology: building and interior products, software that is utilized for designing healthcare environments, tools for evaluation of life cycle assessments, sustainability initiatives, and a host of other developments that impact the completed built environment. Multidisciplinary teams are essential to bringing together all of the knowledge and skill sets that are required to complete a successful healthcare project. Time to get to know your “office neighbor” and understand the needs of those you serve.

Here are a couple of good resources that will help your team along the road toward becoming more of a comprehensive design force:

Multidisciplinary Design Education in Collaborative Design. Kwon Da Eun. Lap Lambert Academic Publishing GmbH KG

Multidisciplinary in-hospital teams improve patient outcomes. Epstein NE.

Jane Rohde is the founding Principal of JSR Associates, Inc. located in Ellicott City, Maryland.  She champions a global cultural shift toward de-institutionalizing senior living and healthcare facilities through person-centered principles, research and advocacy, and design of the built environment.  Clientele includes non-profit and for-profit developers, government agencies, senior living and health care providers, and design firms.  Jane speaks internationally on senior living, aging, healthcare, evidence based design and sustainability.  For more information or comments, please contact Jane Rohde at jane@jsrassociates.net.