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The New School: Multidisciplinary Teams for Success

Sept. 29, 2016

Healthcare design is no longer the design of a hospital, an outpatient facility, or a long-term care setting. The future is community design—healthy, integrated, amenity rich, wellness focused, education minded, sustainable, and transportation accessible. This is healthcare design.


This is demonstrated through the multi-disciplinary approach that is required for a successful project—no matter if the location is urban, rural, or transforming suburbia. In a recent conversation on an Uber ride, the young man driving felt that Towson, Md., long considered a suburb of Baltimore, had come into its own as a city. I had to agree—a long-standing university is now better connected to the Main Street corridor; amenities have become available; better transportation includes bicycle paths; less dependency on the suburban mall (changed to the “Avenue” shopping concept); and better engagement with the community. There is also senior housing for different incomes as part of mixed use and generational housing, health and wellness services available, and socialization opportunities.

Impacting Change

In evaluating research and looking at university programs, the current student population studying healthcare—whether on the medical side or the design side—is continually exposed to different disciplines. When a nursing student is part of a team that includes an architectural student and a social work student, the resulting solution is always going to be improved. For any type of healthcare project, it still comes down to understanding the care model, the operations that are taking place within a setting, all of the users of the project, and the desired outcomes. Collaboration, communication, commitment, and cooperation provide an opportunity to build community in a consensus process.

Innovation is based in multi-disciplinary team planning. Often in our work, facilitation is also key in reaching the goals of a project. The process is not linear, but ever growing and changing. It also must be realized that players change during the design process; therefore, keeping pace to see innovation realized at the end of a project takes strong adherence to strategy and continually pressing to meet the goals. Mediocrity is easy—excellence needs to have strength, support, and continuity. In some of the projects that we’ve worked on in my office we have also found that one champion within a client team is not enough. This was realized when the one “culture change” and person-centered advocate left, and much of the important work and details went by the wayside. Therefore, we recommend that you have three people that share the vision—a tripod of support, all agreeing upon the desired outcomes.

New Resources

The Facility Guidelines Institute’s 2018 revision cycle for healthcare guidelines is well underway. In Fall 2016 manuscripts will be made available for public comment. However, instead of two Guidelines books, there will be three:

  • Guidelines for Design and Construction of Hospitals
  • Guidelines for Design and Construction of Outpatient Facilities
  • Guidelines for Design and Construction of Residential Health, Care, and Support Facilities

This is significant to design professionals, providers, and regulators, as the Guidelines are adopted as licensing code in most states—either in whole or in part. With the Affordable Care Act, the future of healthcare and services is going to take place in outpatient settings. For more information on the Guidelines, go to www.facilityguidelines.org.


In recent years there have been major developments in all types of building and care technology, building and interior products, software that is utilized for designing healthcare environments, tools for evaluation of life cycle assessments, sustainability initiatives, and a host of other changes that impact the completed built environment. Multi-disciplinary teams are essential to bringing together knowledge and skill sets required to complete a successful healthcare project.  

Jane Rohde is the founding principal of JSR Associates, Inc., located in Ellicott City, Md. She champions a global cultural shift toward de-institutionalizing senior living and healthcare facilities through person-centered principles, research and advocacy, and design of the built environment. Clientele includes non-profit and for-profit developers, government agencies, senior living and healthcare providers, and design firms. Rohde speaks internationally on senior living, aging, healthcare, evidence-based design, and sustainability. For more information or comments, please contact Rohde at [email protected].

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