Evidence-Based Hospital Design Can Reduce Stress and Improve Outcomes for Patients and Caregivers

Developing an evidence-based design assessment and certification program for hospital design professionals

Field of Work: Increasing the use of evidence-based design in hospital construction.

Problem Synopsis: In 2004 the United States was facing one of the largest hospital building booms in its history. The nation was on course to spend more than $16 billion on hospital construction that year, projected in 2009 to rise to more than $50 billion annually by the end of the decade.

Also in 2004, the Center for Health Design engaged researchers from Texas A&M University and Georgia Institute of Technology and published a literature review of more than 600 studies on the relationship between hospital design and staff and patient outcomes. The researchers found that single-bed rooms, lower noise levels, ergonomic designs, and better ventilation, lighting and layout can reduce medical errors, lower stress levels among staff and patients, and promote faster healing with fewer infections, less pain and less reliance on drugs. However, health care executives were often uninformed about how a hospital's physical design can affect patients and staff.

Synopsis of the Work: From 2005 to 2008, researchers at the Center for Health Design and the Georgia Institute of Technology's College of Architecture worked, individually and in collaboration, to advance the emerging field of evidence-based design, in which health care executives and design professionals use research showing how to reduce stress and improve outcomes for patients and caregivers when designing hospitals.

Key Results: Project staff:

  • Laid the foundation for an evidence-based design accreditation and certification program, to accredit design professionals who understand how to use an evidence-based design process in building hospitals.
  • Developed the RIPPLE database and Web site to provide information on evidence-based design, and the strategies organizations have used to build hospitals with a safer, healthier physical environment.
  • Produced a series of publications on evidence-based design, including:
    • Eight papers targeted to health care executives, design professionals, researchers and students, available as online reports and articles in professional journals.
    • A Visual Reference for Evidence-Based Design, a 350-page book with dozens of case studies on evidence-based design supported by in-depth research, including more than 300 full-color annotated photographs and architectural plans.
    • An update of the 2004 literature review on evidence-based design.
    • A report outlining a program of hospital tours, to enable health care executives to learn about evidence-based hospital design and construction.