4 important lessons about design planning in radiology

Many radiologists want to contribute to design planning of hospitals or imaging centers, but they lack formal design training and feel they can contribute very little to design planning.

A new article published in the Journal of the American College of Radiology reviewed practical guidelines for selecting design collaborators, developing design themes and sensibilities, and engaging a multidisciplinary radiology team to assist in creating a healthcare environment that enhances patient-centered care and experience, which has a direct impact on reimbursement.

“Radiology leaders can actively engage with design partners on imaging construction projects by contributing their knowledge of patient and staff demographics and culture, developing a basic design vocabulary and sensibility, co-developing a design theme and engaging their staff in design-focused events led by the design team,” wrote lead author Raymond W. Sze, MD, with the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, and colleagues.

Below are four key lessons for imaging leaders taken from the team’s analysis:

Aesthetics are just as important as function

Though the most important aspect of medical space planning includes workflow efficiency, the authors note that aesthetic (material, color palettes, etc.) should be included when planning for function. Because large pieces of equipment are in imaging centers, which can prove to be intimidating, a variety of patterns and colors are necessary to appeal to all senses. Good design contributes to a better healing experience.

“A change in walking surface or wall material can profoundly alter perceptions,” the authors wrote. “Meaningful design themes can stimulate different levels of cognition and offer varied experiences for patients of different ages and backgrounds.”

Choosing the right healthcare designer is paramount.

Not only will the right designer understand the need to incorporate different design aesthetics while keeping function in mind, they will also listen to the needs of the radiology department or imaging center. Credentials of the healthcare designer only note competency, so it is important to ask for references and view past work. Additionally, getting to know the co-partner’s design philosophy and vision could produce better outcomes.

A project theme should be the top priority

Whether broad or specific, the theme for the project should take patient demographics, geography and culture into consideration. Determining opportunities and constraints of the physical space is also necessary. Additionally, consideration of the constraints placed by regulatory bodies—such as infection control, legal and security—is imperative. An often-overlooked constraint can be budget; healthcare teams may have more design ambition than funding.

Engage members of the radiology team

Leaders will want to engage a large group of staff from the start of the project. However, tight deadlines and scheduling can make it a logistical nightmare. A small cohort of contributors to the project is sensible and then gradually expand to meet the needs of the project.

“A small number of sessions narrows the initial list of ideas,” the authors wrote. “Once the designer has created a portfolio of design ideas, feedback can be sought from representatives of the frontline staff. Once suggestions have been considered, a broader sharing is arranged. It can be valuable to give staff members opportunities to make choices.”