Healthcare Designers and Information Use

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In 2005, a survey was undertaken jointly by UNSW and the Royal Australian Institute of Architects (RAIA) that examined the sources of information used by healthcare designers in Australia and New Zealand. At the time health facility design guidelines were being developed for use on all healthcare facility projects across those countries. The results of the survey indicated the low prominence given to the use of written material by designers and their reliance on their own project experience, plus that communicated verbally by their colleagues and clients as being the main sources of information that influenced their design practice. Little use was made of ‘research’, obtained from academic or other sources. Clearly, matching information needs to design practice requires further examination of the distinct phases at which designers require ‘information’, including what they regard as ‘useful’ in terms of content and format. Investigation regarding the link between information use and design decision making appears useful in determining whether it is possible to supply and encourage appropriate information use to improve the overall quality of design output. Drawing on the results of the 2005 UNSW-RAIA survey of healthcare designers, this paper reviews decision making and information use by designers. The nature of the (architectural) design process is reviewed and mapped against theories of information use and decision support evidenced in the practices of designers, and other professionals in similar fields of creative endeavour. Strategies for encouraging the use of ‘research’ by designers to inform practice are explored. These include emphasising the production of information in forms readily useable by, and accessible to, designers. The need to work more closely with design educators to inculcate in their students a greater awareness and appreciation of research as a positive input to design processes, is also considered.
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Carthey, Jane
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