Firm's role on the project: Planning, Programming, Architecture, Design, Interiors
The goal is to conduct research that will:
1) Identify the needs of cancer patients while undergoing infusion treatment
2) Develop potential environmental design solutions to fulfill the needs
3) Validate significant environmental design strategies for infusion patient care and satisfaction
Each year 1.5 million people are diagnosed with cancer in the U.S., the second leading cause of death. The influence of the built environment on patient care is well documented, although little research has been conducted regarding cancer treatment environments. Most research in healthcare design focuses on inpatient environments, however most cancer treatment is provided in outpatient centers. Hypotheses and findings focusing on inpatient environment may not be applicable to cancer treatment environments.
The team started from a descriptive study regarding patient needs, to form a meaningful hypothesis for design and research. To measure the post-occupancy results, a research methodology that included independent and dependent variables had to be clarified before proposing the research. There were limited methodologies regarding cancer care environmental research in review of the literature. The team was challenged to create meaningful variables to measure the results of cancer treatment. Outcome measures of outpatient cancer care are different from the measures of typical inpatient care, such as average length of stay. Specific data collection tools had to be generated for use with cancer patients, who may not be well enough to talk during treatment.
From discussions within the team and healthcare professionals, a new dependent variable was identified: hope. Hope is defined as feeling positive about future treatments, which helps patients endure chemotherapy and maintain the willingness to continue the treatment. Fulfilling patient needs through supportive environmental design is thought to foster hope.
To develop the hypothesis, the team itemized current patient needs and the potential environmental support required to meet these needs. Focusing on infusion environment patient experiences, a pre-design study was conducted in five cancer centers from 2000 to 2007. Based upon a series of surveys, interviews, and focus-group discussions with 300+ patients, the team summarized that patient choice and control, privacy and social support, and positive distractions should be addressed within the design. In order to meet different preferences, the team hypothesized that an infusion center should have three types of treatment settings: private rooms, semi-open, and open areas.