Evidence-based design (EBD) is the process of basing decisions about the built environment on credible research to achieve the best possible outcomes. Originally derived from evidence-based medicine, the term is applied to healthcare facility design to describe the foundations by which decisions are guided.
Sounds great, right?
Most if not all of us would agree that healthcare facilities should be designed in such a way as to enhance healing, promote patient safety, reduce infection and readmission rates, improve patient and staff satisfaction, and so on. Many design decisions have a very measurable impact. For example, by making all patient bedrooms in a hospital setting same-handed, do we reduce sound transmission between rooms and provide a more restful healing environment? It seems logical. It is possible to calculate and/or measure the resulting sound transmission, and if a study is structured that includes other room layouts that are in most other ways similar, we can measure whether patient outcomes are in fact improved (shorter length of stay, etc.) over rooms that place the headwalls back-to-back.
The data would be very helpful.
EBD has become a buzzword that is thrown around a lot. Some healthcare architects may promote certain features as “evidence-based” when they have not in fact been studied in a rigorous way. This dilutes the potential impact of EBD and overstatement is something that we should avoid.
A role for creativity and innovation
Healthcare environments are very complex, and when you layer on the variations of patient types and provider work patterns, our understanding of what works and what doesn’t work is changing all the time. While the existing body of EBD research can and should inform our decisions, there is also a place for innovation and creativity to uncover new and better design strategies. The challenge is to try and measure whether these new strategies produce the improved outcomes we desire, and this involves a commitment on the part of the healthcare organization, the design team, and professional healthcare researchers to design and incorporate an EBD study that will measure and compare results against alternative strategies.