While interest in health environments research has grown over the past decade, comprehending the field can be overwhelming. This is especially true for those new to healthcare design—a fact that inspired a study recently published in Health Environments Research & Design (HERD) Journal.

Authors include Dina Battisto, Xiaowei Li, Jiaying Dong, Luke Hall, and Julia Blouin. Together, they found that no systematic study had investigated themes in evidence-based design (EBD) research regarding the types of research published, people engaged in research, and the research methods employed.

“Understanding the nature of health environment research performed can help researchers, practitioners, and students situate their work within an EBD research structure,” states “Research Methods Used in Evidence-Based Design: An Analysis of Five Years of Research Articles From the HERD Journal.”

(For more articles from Healthcare Design on healthcare design research and theory, go here.)

Themes in healthcare design research

The team worked to identify themes in research methodology by analyzing research and case study articles published in HERD between 2016 and 2020.

The study focused on two primary research questions:

  • What are the themes in research methodology for studies published in HERD in 20 issues over five years between 2016 and 2020? and
  • What similarities and differences can be concluded across the articles (e.g., research methods, design categories, and outcome categories)?

The authors state three “interesting conclusions” were reached.

The first was that “inductive categories identified from an analysis of the articles provide a snapshot of the research methods used in health environments research.” Those categories identified could help create a database structure that would allow for searching articles, framing new studies, or writing future research studies, authors state.

The effort also found inconsistent use of terminology across the article reviews. “For example, terms like research approach, study design, research strategy, research design, and research method were used interchangeably with overlapping meanings,” the study states. As such, the authors encourage consensus to be reached in the field.

The team further identified 934 keywords listed in the articles. This led them to determine the need for a set of consistent terms to ease the literature review process.

The authors also realized that some terms, such as “healthcare, design, and research,” are too vague and don’t convey specifics of a study. They suggest the use of key words tied to topic, population studied, etc.

Finally the study also found that design and outcome categories for coding articles were at times complex and illogically organized. It recommends presenting environmental settings in a hierarchical order to help improve clarity.

How to organize healthcare design research

These are just some of the findings—and suggestions for improvement—cited in the study.

The authors encourage the creation of a common organizing structure “to facilitate collaborations, assist with framing a study for publication, summarize strengths and gaps in the research literature, and identify themes for future research.”

The study will be open to Healthcare Design readers May 1-July 1, 2023, by going here.