Our Insights

The Immersive Design Process

How VR and Simulation work to deliver high quality healthcare solutions

What if you could experience a healthcare environment before the facility or space was ever built? What if you could give real-time input into the design with accuracy and speed? It’s possible through an immersive design process.

By leveraging virtual reality and in-situ simulation technologies, the immersive design process provides user data sets that inform the way healthcare facilities are designed, ensuring that spaces are highly functional and tailored to deliver specific care. The benefits are significant for everyone: patients benefit from the creation of environments that foster care, comfort, safety and well-being; clinicians, who participate in the process, benefit by providing direct feedback into the environment they soon will be working in; and decision-makers at hospitals and health systems benefit from ROI, long-term cost savings and measurable efficiency gains.

In this Insight Article, our Health Sciences team and Advanced Performance Healthcare Design explain the immersive design process and share the outcomes of their collaborative work with multidisciplinary teams in the healthcare sector.

Immersive Design Process

Imagine trying to understand the complex interaction of people, equipment and technology in a new hospital space by reviewing the architectural blueprints. Now imagine bringing that interaction to life with purposefully design simulations and a rich data set from which to make informed design decisions. Let’s break it down.

The objective is to close the language gap between architects and healthcare professionals by understanding each other’s world. Enabling a highly agile process between the clinical practice and architects draws on a proven incremental and iterative development model through a series of successive, increasingly refined work sessions. In essence, we are simulating environments in 3D to examine all angles of design with human actions. It starts with critical design thinking through dialogue, sketches, drawings, renderings, virtual reality (VR) 3D models, scripted scenarios and planned simulations.

Immersive design is built on creating real-time scenarios for clinicians to navigate and provide feedback of the initial VR concept design. Using scripted narratives to simulate various medical emergencies and routine patient and clinician interactions, participants are guided through each scenario to articulate their needs, preferences and workflow requirements.


Integration of VR and In-Situ Simulation

The integration of VR and simulation technologies create virtual environments before they are built. Stakeholders experience the proposed space firsthand to identify areas for improvement and potential issues or risks before construction begins. The process allows the collective team to observe, refine and adapt the design as required,

There is a uniqueness to every environment. The immersive design process helps to make sense of functional design and refine workflow through user-centric, multi-modal simulation by identifying detailed functional needs and by collecting hard data through a combination of simulation, prototype testing, tabletop exercises and movement maps that inform the final design decision.


Benefits, Metrics and Outcomes

Comprehensive analysis of the simulated common and critical scenarios and clinical workflows are recorded and reviewed to identify patterns and trends to support design improvements. Further, participants are engaged in debrief sessions enabling more robust feedback and clarity to inform design. This helps to validate assumptions – and gather additional insights through collaboration.

The measurable benefits include:

  • Time and cost savings achieved by addressing design issues early
  • Streamlining workflows, improving spatial layouts, and enhancing operational efficiency
  • Valuable front line clinician time saved by aligning design decisions with their needs and preferences early on in the design process with more informed and robust communication
  • Focus on patient care rather than navigating inefficient spaces
  • Identifying and correcting latent safety hazards before they can affect patient care

Immersive Design has been associated with a 5:1 return on investment, improving design process efficiency by 21%, which translates to an 18% cost savings on large scale capital projects by creating more accurate and actionable designs, and eliminating the need for costly mid-project corrections.

Based on work completed across hospital facilities, emergency rooms, operating rooms and birthing centres, the participants have embraced this advanced visual and sensory technology in combination with simulation to make real-time adjustments and continuous refinement of virtual spaces to inform the final design.

With increased demands placed on healthcare systems to deliver more and varied services, and in new ways, the immersive design process works to achieve an informed design that effectively integrates people, space and technology, resulting in high quality design solutions – faster.

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