In my last post, I discussed how designers need to be innovators to meet the challenges facing the healthcare industry today. Changing demographics, new technology, and new funding sources all require new approaches to facility design—and new approaches to the design process itself. 

For instance, by integrating three-dimensional facility prototyping into the design process, designers can test new ideas and healthcare delivery methods that cost-effectively improve patient outcomes. 

My colleagues and I recently implemented such a prototyping process with a major national healthcare provider to develop a design research lab to rapid-prototype and test different clinic module concepts. 

Built in the healthcare provider’s main building, the lab consists of a series of movable walls, furnishings, fixtures, technology, and signage that simulate different clinic set-ups, from a three-part exam room to traditional exam rooms and group exam rooms.

Doctors then meet with patients in prototype exams rooms while research teams follow-up with a series of questions to evaluate design effectiveness. Researchers consider exam room size, shape, acoustics, technology, workflow processes, and patient privacy and furnishings. 

The test results from the lab allow the healthcare provider to implement design innovations throughout its multiple locations. 

We employed a similar prototyping process with a seven-story bed tower addition for a healthcare provider in Pennsylvania. As part of the design process, we constructed a full-scale patient room, decentralized nurses’ station, and operating room to test concepts.

Interdisciplinary clinical teams conducted multiple workflow scenarios within each mockup. Test results led to design modifications. 

In each case, we explored opportunities and challenges using three-dimensional prototyping. The research results add to our evidence-based design database, enabling us to make more informed decisions regarding the healthcare delivery process.

Ultimately, prototyping is an effective tool to test evolving healthcare models. Let me know experiences you have had with prototyping.