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Following the Evidence toward Better Design

By: Sine, David M.; Hunt, James M. | This article was originally published in Behavioral Healthcare Executive.


The fact that many psychiatric treatment services are now administered as outpatient programs has not diminished the need for inpatient behavioral healthcare beds. In fact, there appears to be a mini-boom in design projects for both new construction and the renovation of existing behavioral health hospitals and units. Many existing facilities have become costly to maintain, are energy inefficient, are technologically outdated, and do not provide a built environment riiat has kept pace with the current standard of care for the safe delivery of mental health services.


As Stewart Brand notes in How Buildings Learn, almost no buildings adapt well.1 Healthcare facilities are arguably more adaptable than most, but the rate of change in healthcare treatment modalities and technologies demands a higher rate of change than is needed for other structures. Louis Sullivan may be right that form follows function, but in the case of healthcare design the form is forever playing catch up with technologic innovation and treatment theories that are in a constant state of flux. In short, often by the time the behavior health treatment unit is built, codes have changed and clinicians have moved on, both literally and figuratively, to a different way of thinking.


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