10 Big Ideas for Advancing Clinical Research
Clinical research is an increasingly important component of academic medicine. Historically, clinical research had been shoe-horned into clinical space, without organizational or cultural change. Or, clinical research was assigned space in old wings of hospitals and clinics. Both models can create difficulty in accruing and retaining research subjects, efficiency of research and clinical teams, obtaining and processing specimens, and incorporating advanced technologies.
With the development of new models for clinical research centers over the past 10 years (separate from or integrated into the clinic), lessons are being learned about how space planning and design can affect clinical research. Here are current thoughts on the top 10 issues.
Spotlight the Value of Clinical Research
Emphasize the importance of clinical research with prominence, quality and innovative space. Move clinical research into highly visible and world class spaces that both subjects and staff deserve, and that speaks to its ability to advance medicine and innovation.
Create Clinical Mass
Create a home base for mobile clinical research teams in order to create critical mass and allow knowledge sharing and inter-team support. Visibility of this base on well-traveled pathways will increase awareness and interest in research projects. Also, provide teaming and touchdown space in clinics, operating suites, research labs and other areas where teams work.
Center on Subject & Family
Without volunteer subjects, clinical research does not exist. Design for the convenience of patients, subjects and families by choreographing a positive experience (greeting, interview, exam, procedure and testing) to increase the rate of accrual and retention. Create separate flows for dressed, gowned and gowned-sedated subjects. Provide space for family including age appropriate diversion activities, as well as technology so families can connect with work, home and school. Finally, design an easy exiting process.
Right Person, Right Place
Move research subjects with no clinical therapies out of the clinic. Create clinical research space to accrue, interview and examine research subjects to support protocols and a positive research subject experience.
Integrate Care & Research
For patients with regular therapeutic visits who become part of research protocols, make life easier by integrating their clinical and research journeys and eliminating duplicate visits at different locations. Create a co-culture of clinical care and research: accruing for research protocols in the clinic, drawing blood for care and research together when practical, integrating research protocols in the visit. Thoughtfully-designed space can simultaneously support both research and clinical care.
Use educational spaces to increase the visibility of clinical research programs and bring like-minded patients, providers and community providers together. Take advantage of opportunities to build awareness in the community for the institution’s clinical research programs and highlight ongoing and planned protocols to assist in identifying and accruing candidates.
Enhance Process through Design
Eliminate waste, minimize risk and streamline processes to improve the experience, efficiency and productivity. Use Lean process improvement, Six Sigma, simulation and other process analysis tools to:
- Develop ideal flows for staff, subjects, samples and materials
- Best provide patient- (subject-) and family-centered care and staff satisfaction
- Make current processes “stretch further” and better connect from clinical through basic research activities
- Use technology to enhance the model of care or clinical research
Design to influence process, environment (daylighting) and behavior (work styles) to reduce errors, improve reliability and adhere to protocols.
Use Brand to Build Excitement
Memorable branding is essential to build awareness, support and passion for a cause. Put design to work to create a branded facility and spaces that create excitement among staff (recruitment and retention) and the community (fundraising). Use the facility as a beacon to highlight the fact that medicine is being advanced within its walls through clinical research.
Adapt for Advanced Tools
Advancements beyond current standard of care often require advanced tools (imaging, metabolic chambers, advanced diagnostics, cGMP facilities, etc.). These technologies will change during the life of the building, so space should be adaptable and expandable to accommodate the best available tools and technology.
Recognize organizational, cultural and physical barriers to collaboration among clinical care, clinical research, translational and basic research staff and work to remove them. Create flexible and high-tech gathering spaces that encourage and support sharing knowledge for different sized teams.