January 22, 2007

Health-care trend moving focus on healing, not sickness, expert says

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. — In years to come, hospitals and other health-care facilities will look more like hotels or resorts and less like the institutional, often inconveniently designed buildings many think of today, says a Purdue University expert.

"Hospitals used to be stiff environments, but in the last decade or so, that has all changed," says Gregory Lasker, an assistant professor of building construction management. "Today consumers, as well as health-care professionals, are more informed and interested in how a holistic environment promotes healing.

"When you know better, you start to demand better."

Lasker, who heads Purdue's health-care construction management program, is the former owner of his own construction company. He said a good example of what hospitals are beginning to look like can be found in the Indianapolis suburb of Carmel, Ind.

Clarian North Medical Center features private rooms; dedicated pavilions for women, children and specialty surgery; an attached medical office building; comfortable waiting-room chairs similar to what might be found in a residence; and greenery and a glass-covered atrium, much like a shopping mall.

"The changes have come about because there has been a big push toward what is known as evidence-based design," Lasker says. "In the past couple of decades, more research has been focused on finding out if hospitals are the best, most efficiently designed that they can be and, in most cases, that answer has been no."

He says that years before a facility is built, meetings are held involving contractors, designers, doctors, nurses and hospital administrators so that everyone has a say in how that building is constructed.

For instance, Lasker says it's important that the emergency room and neonatal areas are located next to the operating room and that nurses' stations are positioned near patient rooms. In facilities built decades ago, that wasn't always the case.

"A lot of this is just basic common sense, but it also makes sense financially," he says. "This idea stems from lean manufacturing, where the focus is on minimizing waste, both in terms of cost and in the way space is allocated."

One of the biggest changes in recently constructed hospitals is the shift to private rooms.

"Today, all facilities are being built with single-patient rooms," he says. "There are two reasons for this: One, the stricter privacy laws. Two, most patients today have family or friends who visit or stay with them, and this gives them more space and privacy."

Other trends in hospital construction include decorating with soothing colors, playing relaxing music, as well as including meditation gardens in the building design.

"Owners are moving toward a more aesthetically pleasing environment that contributes to the process of healing. In this day and age, there's nothing about the planning, design, and construction process that is an accident."

Health-care construction management is one of five specializations offered in Purdue's Department of Building Construction Management. Others are electrical construction management, mechanical construction management, residential construction management, and demolition and reconstruction management.

Writer: Kim Medaris, (765) 494-6998, kmedaris@purdue.edu

Source: Gregory Lasker, (765) 494-6752, glasker@purdue.edu

Purdue News Service: (765) 494-2096; purduenews@purdue.edu

Related Web site:
Purdue Department of Building Construction Management: http://www.tech.purdue.edu/bcm/

 

To the News Service home page