When I learned that the July 2012 issue of HEALTHCARE DESIGN would focus on ambulatory care, it made me pause and glance at the types of projects currently on my to-do-list.

Not surprisingly, the large acute-care facility projects are all falling off and being replaced with smaller more ambulatory projects. Most are renovations. Many are trending toward wellness and aiming to improve the health of the people in their communities. All are aiming to achieve the highest scores in patient satisfaction.

Happily, this trend has come naturally to the healthcare design sector of architecture and design on the heels of the acceptance of the evidence-based design movement. As this wellness trend catches on, it will begin to influence the shape of the buildings we design and occupy across all sectors.

We have, for good reason, focused on improved outcomes related to injury and illness in our current evidence-based healthcare design agenda. This new emphasis, fueled by the looming Accountable Care Act, will look to the architecture and design community to participate in this challenging agenda by creating design interventions that contribute to improved lifestyles in order to drive healthcare costs down.

To do this, we will need to be armed with intelligence that identifies design interventions that can help improve the vulnerable human conditions that have been neglected for too long in the United States and in much more remote locations across the globe. 

An important question to ask, as we design buildings for better health choices, is do we have enough baseline evidence to achieve these goals? The answer is tough to answer without a full literature search. Needless to say, it is difficult to trail blaze new topics without establishing a good baseline from which to launch the next set of innovative concepts.

Here is a call to action. As your to-do-list fills with more new projects, please become an Affiliate at The Center for Health Design and help support the creation and dissemination of new knowledge. Encourage your project teams to become EDAC-certified so that everyone is speaking a common language and can make better decisions.

Participate in The Center for Health Design’s Pebble Project where the rigor exists to identify, explore, and write about baseline knowledge.

As new design interventions emerge and are hypothesized and measured, this baseline knowledge is then shared in the publications and conferences that are affiliated with The Center. This creates the momentum we need to bring the topic of the design of the built environment at a new level to this crucial conversation. 

The reoccurring agenda is quite simple. It includes the identification of design attributes that allow an occupant of an interior space to have:

  • Strong connections to nature or biophilic design—relieving stress and anxiety;
  • Clear intuitiveness about usage—empowerment and control of one’s purpose for occupancy;
  • Ease with human interaction for important communications that enhances the purpose for occupancy;
  • Free mobility—design detailing that gets people up and moving around, creating active lifestyles and independent living;
  • Operational functionality that reduces waste and cost of operations that is also safe and offers timely, efficient, effective, equitable, and patient-centered care; and
  • Creature comforts that do not harm our natural habitat but contribute to its prosperity.

So, what is on your to-do-list? Are you designing to the above-mentioned outcomes? How will you document your success and failures so you can contribute to this conversation? I look forward to learning from each of you as we move this agenda quickly in an evidence-based fashion.