Leveraging Design for Improved Imaging Performance

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Although imaging technology continues to expand in complexity and to manifest itself at a fast pace, the world of medical imaging is evolving beyond more or newer technology to incorporating design to make technology more effective..

In this era, it is time to explore how to move beyond quicker scans and more detailed information sets. Architects, designers, owners, and equipment manufacturers are responsible for equal and complementary improvements in the workflow and environment to keep pace with technological change.

The fundamental differences in medical technology, while unique, are becoming less significant. Design may be the ultimate differentiator for patients, families, and staff as we shift from product design to experience design. Nowhere is this more important than for imaging.

At every level of opportunity, whether for inpatient hospitals or outpatient clinics, design is not solely a tool to warehouse technology or its local physical impact, but a tool for clinical and social impact.

The medical imaging industry has raised a question about design results and outcomes. Manufacturers’ brochures, advertising, and exhibits address much more than slices or scans. As we move forward into an uncertain economic future, imaging providers will expect an equal and informed design response to leverage their technology investments.

An integral component of inpatient and outpatient spaces goes beyond basic determinants of power, dimensions, or even quantity. Quality is measured beyond programmatic function, but must respond to work performance, patient satisfaction, and productivity. Imaging has become a tool to predict, inform, and treat, not just observe anatomy. This can be a participatory process for all affected. These trends, and many more, significantly affect the way that we must design for medical imaging.

Healthy Design Outcomes for Business

In this era of technology-intensive health care, facilities must continue to balance high tech with high touch. Personal contact, caring service, and genuine concern for patients should never be replaced by technology.

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The trend toward healthy design and its compelling benefits for patients, families, and clinicians is too powerful to ignore. The physical environment and natural surroundings have a significant impact on the human spirit—in particular, the sense of confidence and well being. Research sponsored by organizations such as the Coalition for Health Environments Research1,2, the Center for Health Design, and major universities shows that a focused healing environment will enhance many aspects of the healing and care process, and that such an environment derives from thoughtful applications of personal and design principles.

For more than a decade, the health care industry has been borrowing design strategy, as well as ideas regarding service and patient-support amenities, from the hospitality market. The idea behind it is simple: Hospitality is equated with relaxation, comfort, and convenience. Today’s sophisticated imaging provider requires all of these elements. The more amenities provided by an imaging provider, the better it can attract savvy referrals and patients.

Great buildings do not just happen. It takes forethought, skill, and the talent of a creative design team that is passionate not only about healthy, supportive design, but also about collaboration with inspired clients. Architects are taught to be problem seekers, not just problem solvers. For the best design solution, whether it involves a single-story outpatient imaging center or a multimillion-dollar hospital inpatient department, it is important to define the real problem and then develop a conceptual response to solving that unique problem. Not all imaging solutions should be the same.

Conceptual design is the development of an inspiration or experience that provides guidance and gives direction for all design responses, including aesthetics, function, and future use. Most important, it is a process used to develop vision and an architectural response to critical patient-care and business trends. When conceptual design is implemented properly, the entire management team is on board early with the project's vision. It provides a blueprint for the emotional and experiential objectives of a project.

Customization and detail in the imaging suite can be accomplished without extensive cost or confusion (above); an investment in workspace design beyond the imaging suite (right)