Guide to Conducting Healthcare Facility Visits

Jan 01, 1994

Change in healthcare and society is rapid and increasingly unpredictable, bringing an unprecedented level of risk for healthcare organizations facing new projects. This guide discusses a specific tool that healthcare organizations and design professionals can use to help manage uncertainty: the facility visit. In almost every healthcare project someone - client, designer, or client-design team - visits other facilities to help them prepare for the project. A probing, well structured, and well run visit can highlight the range of possible design and operational alternatives, pinpoint potential problems, and build a design team that works together effectively over the course of a design project. It can help a team creatively break their existing paradigms for their current project and can provide a pool of experience that can inform other projects. All of these can help reduce risk for healthcare organizations. However, current facility visits are often ineffective. They are frequently conducted quite casually, despite the rigor of much other healthcare planning and design. Visits are often costly — $40,000 or more - yet they often fall short of their potential. Sites are often chosen without careful consideration, little attention is given to clarifying the purpose or methods of visits, there is often little wrap-up, and frequently no final report is prepared. Not only is the money devoted to the visit frequently not used most effectively, the visit presents important opportunities to learn and to build a design team. These opportunities are too often squandered.

This guide focuses on what a facility field visit can accomplish and suggests ways to achieve these goals. Although a facility visit may occur in a variety of circumstances, including the redesign of the process of healthcare without any redesign of the physical setting, this guide focuses on situations in which architectural or interior design is being contemplated or is in process.

Craig Zimring, Ph.D.
Published & professionally reviewed by: 
The Center for Health Design

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