Paul: Is it proven that healthcare design directly impacts the health of a patient?
Carolyn: Yes, there is much research concerning physiological responses to specific environmental stressors.
One aspect of this research is finding out how the environment supports or negatively affects staff, which can have a direct impact on patient care. High performance acoustical design, for example, is an important factor because noise can lead to distractions, miscommunications or fatigue.
The design needs to provide areas for focused work that hopefully enhance communication, and in healthcare this can be critical. In studies, private emergency treatment bays and private patient rooms have led to a perception of enhanced information sharing between patient and caregiver.
Paul: What are some of the most critical touch points in a design that affect a patient?
Carolyn: There are many. The environment must be easily cleaned to reduce the spread of infection. Spaces that can aid in reducing stress, help a person rest, and provide adequate space for families to participate in the patient's care and social support are also important. Staff needs efficient patient care and work areas in which they can focus and communicate effectively with each other and with patients and families. These need to include good ergonomic design, acoustics and lighting.
Paul: How has the recession affected healthcare design?
Carolyn: Many designers from other sectors are looking at healthcare now. New perspectives will hopefully lead to more creative solutions. I spent the beginning of my career working only on corporate projects, until a serendipitous recession steered me into healthcare design. It's a very rewarding type of project.
Paul: Do you see the next generation of designers paying attention to healthcare?
Carolyn: I occasionally guest critique projects in the graduate interiors studio at Pratt. Among these students and other young designers we've hired, there's growing interest and enthusiasm for projects that "give back" and are more meaningful to people. The designers want to make a difference.
Paul: How do you see healthcare design changing or evolving?
Carolyn: We're seeing more courtyards, windows, skylights and other building configurations to allow day-lighting into diagnostic spaces instead of large, dense floor plates with minimal access to daylight.
Through evidence-based design research, there's acknowledgement that the environment has a positive or negative impact on health and performance. Now more than ever, clients need long-term value in facilities.
Paul: Tell us about some projects that you've worked on that embody a new direction, or excellence, in healthcare.
Carolyn: For the past five+ years, we've been working on a New Clinical Building for Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore. It's a 1.6 million square feet, state-of-the-art, modern, light-filled space, encompassing adult and children's towers that will feature integral gardens, saturated color accents and art. For its scale, complexity and civic presence, it's been a collaboration between client, architectural and interior designers, and landscape designers, among other consultants, with inspiration from fine artist commissions. The exterior integrates a façade with a color design and custom-fit that was created by the artist Spencer Finch. It is currently under construction.
Paul: Tell us something fun about yourself.
Carolyn: As a child my family ate on Eva Zeisel dishes. I was fascinated by them and have long admired her work. I was able to meet Ms. Zeisel recently at the Museum of Arts and Design Gala. It was moving and inspirational to meet such a legend, especially someone who is so relevant and creatively productive, as she's been her entire life.