For the past three years, the International Interior Design Association (IIDA; Chicago) has honored originality and excellence in the design and furnishings of healthcare interior spaces through its Healthcare Interior Design Competition.

Past winners have included Bayt Abdullah Children’s Hospice in Kuwait in 2012, Baylor Medical Center at McKinney in 2013, and, this year, NYU Langone Medical Center’s Preston Robert Tisch Center for Men’s Health.

Healthcare Design recently asked Cheryl Durst, executive vice president and CEO of the IIDA, to reflect on this year’s award-winning projects and how the industry has evolved over the past few years.

Healthcare Design: What trend stands out most to you in this year’s IIDA Healthcare Interior Design Competition?

Cheryl S. Durst: Each winning project clearly offers an innovative solution for the client and demonstrates attentiveness to patient care. Additionally, from a design standpoint, the winners show a meticulous focus on textures, surfaces, and materiality. None of the projects is sterile; they invite comfort and engagement and express care in a sophisticated way.

The level of client or patient specificity is also interesting. A number of this year’s winners are targeted to specific audiences, ranging from a center for men’s health to a birthing center to a dental school and clinic on an Air Force Base.

How are these trends different from when IIDA first launched its competition?

Increasingly, we have seen submissions in this competition focus not just on patient care but the total holistic healthcare environment. A healthcare environment should be centered on patient care and wellness, but it’s also a workplace, a teaching facility, and, increasingly, a community center.

How does the drive for patient-centered design affect the approach to interiors?

Patient-centered design has moved to the forefront as a direct result of healthcare reform, which has goals relating to accountable care and quality. Patient satisfaction is most often tied to environment and surroundings, as necessary companions to hands-on care. Patients often equate a better/higher quality of care with well-designed surroundings. The reality is that design is a quality signal on an emotional and an intellectual level. Good design creates a better working environment for healthcare professionals, as well as a better healing environment for patients.

What are some of the challenges interior designers face on healthcare projects today?

I think that healthcare designers face the same challenges as the industry as a whole, primarily: the rising costs of care; equitable availability/access of care for all citizens/consumers; making sense of the financial, administrative, economic maze that is “managed care”; privacy and security of records; determining valid metrics for measuring quality of care; issues facing aging communities; and the increased incidences and/or preparation for epidemics.

Each of those factors can be discussed in the context of a designed solution. Design professionals are increasingly specialized in their approach to both the facilities of care and wellness and the larger issues that affect well-being and the healthcare marketplace. The role and value of the healthcare designer is critically important now more than ever.

For more on the 2013 winners of the IIDA Healthcare Interior Design Competition, check out HCD’s October issue and read “Fine Tailoring At The Preston Robert Tisch Center For Men’s Health.”