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Design Connections Healthcare Recap

March 30, 2016

It's time for change: rebuild, rethink, and reconfigure

As the incredible Keynote Presenter, Whitney Bowman-Zatzkin, MPA, MSR, Director of Flip the Clinic stated, it is time for not only change, but meaningful transformation of the patient experience and related outcomes.  Person-centered is an often used term – but actually elevating healthcare to focus on the patient and resident requires action.  It takes tenacity, transparency of accessible information, joy from a trust and supportive perspective, expansion of a person’s health into their community at-large while taking on personal responsibility for wellness, and a physical environment that nourishes a person – a sense of belonging to a place that does not create additional undo stress and supports individual needs. 

Design Connection for Healthcare, the only dedicated venue for education and direct-relationship building between healthcare interior designers and manufacturers, has once again ‘wowed’ the attendees with its innovative format and fast paced sharing of information and knowledge!  You know that you’ve attended a successful event, when you leave and you are happily worn out with anticipation of a positive future and the potential contributions that you will be able to achieve in your work and personal life.  This is one of those types of venues – life changing with rekindled and new relationships springing forth to do good work.  The conference provided a venue for certified healthcare interior designers from AAHID to come together; fostering founding members and newer certificant holders to build new relationships.  The venue included manufacturers, who held board room educational sessions as well as one on one meetings with designers – supporting the premise that product manufacturers are part of the solution and want to be an integrated part of the design team and process to create successful healthcare environments – acute, outpatient, and residential care settings. 

International Interior Design Association’s, Cheryl Durst, Executive VP and CEO, moderated a panel of interior designers covering the different healthcare sectors on technology and wearables – as clearly technology is key for longevity and choice for residents and patients to monitor their health and wellness; while maintaining independence.  Wearables that include sensors that alert care providers that there is a fall to ‘cuddly’ dinosaurs that react to touch and movement to a ‘hugging’ chair that reduces anxiety for those with cognitive issues to 3D printing of prosthesis to recording and processing of accessible information to providing real time service updates within healthcare settings to self-driving cars for transportation – all are exciting and part of an endless opportunity for innovation that improves quality of life and supports individual choice.

A survey was sent out prior to Design Connections to identify designer’s key concerns in healthcare settings.  The top four questions were used as a basis for group breakout sessions; acute care, outpatient care, and residential care; headed up by Teri Lura Bennett, RN, CID, CHID, NIHD, EDAC, Andrea Hyde, CHID, MCID, and Jane Rohde, FIIDA, CHID, ASID, AIA, ACHA, respectively.  Here are the results at a glance:


1. Sustainable/Green versus Durability: Finishes have to last at least 10 years for ROI.  How sustainable is it to have to replace a hopelessly soiled “green” product before 10 years?

2. State of the Art Clinical Care in State of the Art Healthcare Environments: is design helping to support optimal clinical care or are we creating environments that clinical staff have to struggle to maintain? 

3. Change the World: How do we change the world of Healthcare Design? 

4. Doing More with Less: How to achieve long term goals with short term budgets?

In response to Survey question 1, the picture of the “seating grave yard” demonstrates the need for products to be durable to meet the desired building service life.  Durability for all types of products in all healthcare settings is a key component to being specified on a project.

In designing healthcare, can products be truly cleaned – and that includes the need for appearance retention.  Even if a product can be cleaned and is being maintained, but does not appear to be clean – it is considered a product failure.  If care staff is constantly contacting environmental services because of a perception of a surface or furnishing not being clean, then their time is being spent unproductively – focusing on the physical environment instead of the care needs of patients and residents at-hand.  Responding to Survey question 2 is to allow care and service staff to focus on their core competencies and the patients and residents that they are serving – not having to address a continual maintenance issue created by an installed product or piece of furniture. 

The biggest myth of all – it is shiny, so it must be clean!  Shiny surfaces create glare; resulting in increased fall risk for residents, patients, staff, and visitors.  Further the maintenance of a shiny surface adds hours of environmental services time, additional use of wax and chemicals, waxing no-wax surfaces that in many cases destroy the original finish or negatively impact positive product characteristics.  As Teri Bennett stated in the breakout sessions recap; “this isn’t what the rendering looked like!” 

Addressing Survey question #3 can relate to an interior detail, such as eliminating the ‘shine’ – but can also relate to a more global culture change within the healthcare marketplace – changing the world of healthcare!  In response to question #3, there are two steps; 1) increasing knowledge and education and 2) providing opportunities for culture change.  Such as the premise behind “flip the clinic” – we can see that with residential care – flipping from an institutional setting to a residential care setting that improves quality of life, access to the outdoors, and focuses on not only clinical needs, but the whole person as a unique individual, is culture change that is supported by knowledge, education, and transformative action. 

Doing more with less is a constant in healthcare design; however in responding to Survey question #4, through collaboration, breaking down silos, conserving resources, and making decisions that decrease operational costs demonstrates possibilities for positive return on investment that starts not only with the initial expenditure, but carries through annually as potential operational savings.  Healthcare designers along with partnering manufacturers are crucial to the success of the constantly changing healthcare marketplace. 

After spending a few days being uplifted – through networking, education, and fun – I challenge all of us to be focusing on the transformation of the future of healthcare.  We all have a stake in the outcomes – and others are counting on us!  Many thanks to Interiors & Sources and Ngage Events for a masterful experience!  

I would like to dedicate this month’s column to two incredible people that have and will touch so many people’s lives – many who will never know that they are responsible for transforming long term care and person-centered environments.  They both believed in their quiet, patient manners that anything is possible.  Dr. Robert Mayer, a great leader, innovator, and friend – transforming the regulatory world to support resident-centered care for all elders now and in the future, and Muffi Lavigne Plum, an inspiration to all as she supported change in all settings that improved residents’ lives in long term care settings through believing that life can always be lived to the fullest no matter the circumstances, a believer in universal design for all, and understanding that enduring friendships are key to quality of life.  She is remembered for her pure loving heart. 

Jane Rohde is the founding Principal of JSR Associates, Inc. located in Ellicott City, Maryland.  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 health care providers, and design firms.  Jane speaks internationally on senior living, aging, healthcare, evidence based design and sustainability.  She is the first recipient of the Environments for Aging Changemaker Award presented by The Center for Health Design. For more information or comments, please contact Jane Rohde at [email protected].

About the Author


Jane Rohde, AIA, FIIDA, ASID, ACHA, CHID LEED AP BD+C & GGA – EB: Jane Rohde is the founding principal of JSR Associates Inc. in Catonsville, MD. JSR Associates Inc. celebrates 23 years of consulting services in 2019. Jane is the recipient of the 2015 Environments for Aging Changemaker Award and in 2018 she received the ASID Design for Humanity Award, was recognized as an Honorary Alumni of Clemson University’s Architecture + Health program, and has been honored as one of 10 notable Women in Design. For more information or comments, please contact Jane Rohde at [email protected] or “Chat with Jane” at www.jsrassociates.net.

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