Using Research to Improve the Patient Experience

MariaHOLT News

HOLT Architects has been designing healthcare environments all over New York State for over 55 years – and the firm’s design great success stems from more than creativity and innovation – it is rooted in evidence!

Kelly Maher and Sarah Hourihan – both Healthcare Designers and in-house Behavioral Health specialists at HOLT Architects conducted a workshop focusing on “How Design can Improve the Patient Experience” at the Northeast Behavioral Health Conference in Syracuse on Tuesday May 8, 2018.

Maher began the presentation by showing examples of good and bad spaces that we work in each day to benchmark what she displays next – photos of great architecture; spaces that showcase efficient flow, soothing colors, big windows, grand views, and lots of natural light. She states that it’s not just the talent of the architect that creates this, but also the implementation of research. And what do architects call this? Evidence-Based Design!


Hourihan then discusses the history of Evidence-Based Design and how it stemmed from Evidence-Based Medicine that began to emerge in the 1960’s. And how over the course of the next 50 years the practice evolved and progressed into Evidence-Based Design Accreditation and Certification (EDAC) – the certification of architects, designers, hospital executives, healthcare providers, and others to create, as EDAC states “…a global community of forward thinkers who envision a world where all healthcare environments are created using Evidence-Based Design.”

Now that we know this research exists, how does it become architecture? Hourihan discusses the process that starts with establishing goals and outcomes for each project. This could be wanting to enhance patient dignity and privacy and/or increase patient and staff satisfaction. Once the goals are established, designers will leverage the best available research to ensure these results are met.

Maher states common goals specific to behavioral health design – one being to reduce patient stress and anxiety. Then follows up with the research to ensure this outcome which includes connections to nature, natural daylight, noise control, and creative architecture to maximize patient privacy.


Hourihan wrapped up the presentation showing how the Evidence-Based Design process is cyclical and never truly ends. “After a project is complete, we conduct post-occupancy reviews. The results of these evaluations help us influence our next project” she states.

After the presentation, the HOLT team was excited to hear positive accolades from the audience and how so many of them were excited to get started on the implementation of Evidence-Based Design solutions– not only at their Institutions, but even in their homes.

From all of us at HOLT, we want to thank NEBH and the audience members for attending the presentation – it’s a subject that we are all passionate about and truly believe in!