Worth a read: “Beautifying hospitals: a tough sell,” posted yesterday to Canadian Medical Association Journal Online, discusses how our design knowledge is getting lost in translation when it comes to hospitals. More and more designers, health professionals, government representatives and other decision-makers are acknowledging design’s influence on health, but with a few exceptions, we aren’t designing hospitals any differently than we did before “evidence-based design” was a recognizable term. (Check out my post on evidence-based design here.)

Fascinating quote by one Dr. Alan Dilani: “The health care industry is typically looking for the cause of diseases, instead of focusing on the causes of health. We have 8000 diagnoses or causes of diseases. We might also find 8000 causes of health.”

Why the slowness to change? Evidence-based design isn’t some fuzzy postulate about “emotions” and other “soft,” unquantifiable variables – not anymore. It’s science – and no one questions that health and science go together.

What I think is the answer: existing hospitals get the job done, and sticking with traditional design allows us to avoid the scary unknown quantities, coughs and hiccups involved in trying anything new, even a new thing supported by scientific evidence. What’s more, we don’t yet know how to translate the theoretical into the practical in many design situations; just because we know design affects health doesn’t mean we’re always sure about how it does so. There’s a lot to learn.

But we shouldn’t hesitate to put into practice what we already know.