Designing world class health care facilities for veterans
The physical condition of U.S. military health care facilities — overcrowded and ill equipped — is a sad tale, told often. Adding injury to insult, the influx of wounded service men and women from U.S. wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, combined with an aging population, has stressed existing facilities to the max. In response, the Department of Defense is making its largest investment ever in facility replacements and renovations — more than $15 billion during the next five years.
Architecture professor Dina Battisto is leading the effort from Clemson as principal investigator on a series of research grants with the Department of Defense (DOD) and NXT, an innovations organization. The funding — totaling more than $1.5 million — encompasses a variety of collaborative projects including the development of a toolkit intended to assist with designing, building and maintaining world-class facilities for the Military Health System.
“The development of this toolkit employs life-cycle thinking,” Battisto said. “It provides a performance-based approach that utilizes the latest knowledge to inform strategic thinking, guide the health facility planning and design process, and then measure facility performance after the facilities are built and occupied.”
The current lack of guidelines means that architects must make design decisions without any mechanism to evaluate their work. The toolkit Battisto and her colleagues are developing will help fill that gap.
“We are learning about the relationships within the facility and tying those to the built environment,” Battisto said. “The toolkit will provide guidelines to measure design decisions before, during and after the facility is built — making for a more effective design process. This will improve the quality of care for patients and their families and increase job satisfaction for those who work within the facility.”
Battisto is collaborating with Clemson architecture professors David Allison and Stephen Verderber, medical professionals, other universities and DOD on this project. Clemson students are also playing a key role in assisting the faculty team in their work. Serving in assistantships and as hourly employees, students gain hands-on experience with research.
Students understand the value of research as they see firsthand how their research is applied in making substantial changes to facility design, Battisto said. By improving the facility design, the students also aid in changing the quality of care for patients, families and employees. Students’ work will also improve health care facilities outside the military arena, as the toolkit continues to develop.
“Since this research is sponsored by the government, the information will eventually become part of the public domain,” explained Allison, director of Clemson’s architecture and health concentration. “That means it will be available to the industry at large, improving health care facilities across the spectrum.”
In mid-November, Battisto and members of the research team presented three sessions at the 2010 Healthcare Design Conference in Las Vegas. One of their sold-out sessions, “An Integrated Model for Creating and Maintaining World Class Medical Facilities — A Military Perspective,” featured the roadmap and the toolkit.
In 2008, Battisto was named one of “Twenty Who Are Making a Difference” by Healthcare Design magazine. Her work was recognized in 2009 and 2010 with back-to-back wins in the national Healthcare Environment Awards Competition. Battisto serves on the Board of the American Institute of Architect’s Academy of Architecture for Health Foundation, where she is also the chair of the research grants program.
Clemson’s graduate program in architecture was recently named in the Top 20 of all U.S. graduate architecture programs by DesignIntelligence — the only national college rankings focused exclusively on design. The architecture and health concentration is the most structured and established program of its type in the United States. Students focus on health facility design as well as the study of relationships between architectural settings and their impact on human health and well-being.
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