Texas Tech University

Redesigning Work Areas Can Improve Teamwork, Potentially Save Lives

Amanda Bowman

May 7, 2020

Lisa Lim, an assistant professor in the College of Architecture, collaborated with the Mayo Clinic to understand the design aspects that affect teamwork of health care professionals.

Now, more than ever, it's imperative for health care workers to have clear communication with one another. One thing that might hinder communication is the way health care facilities are designed.

Lisa Lim
Lisa Lim

Lisa Lim, an assistant professor in Texas Tech University's College of Architecture, believes the built environment can be an asset for health care professionals, if utilized correctly. A paper she co-authored, "Spatial Influences on Team Awareness and Communication in Two Outpatient Clinics: A Multiple Methods Study," describes how the design and layout of team spaces influence the way team members work together.

The paper recently was published in the Journal of General Internal Medicine, which promotes improved patient care, research and education in primary care, general internal medicine and hospital medicine.

"The importance of teamwork in health care settings cannot be overemphasized," Lim said.

Lim and her collaborators at the Georgia Institute of Technology (Georgia Tech) and the Mayo Clinic investigated what design aspects support or hinder teamwork of health care professionals.

"There is a recent movement, especially in primary care clinics, to provide long-term, team-based care to the patients with national programs like TeamSTEPPS or accreditations like patient-centered medical home," Lim said. "However, there is little research on how facility design can accommodate the care transition and support teamwork of health care professionals."

The multidisciplinary team of designers, researchers and health care professionals collaborated to understand what design aspects of team rooms, as well as the entire clinic layout, enhance communication and make coworkers more aware of each other to improve teamwork.

They found that if health care professionals physically encountered each other more often throughout the day and were more visually aware of one another, then they would communicate more often and be more likely to collaborate or ask for help if they need it.

Lim expects the implementation of the findings can support teamwork of health care professionals and eventually improve not only patient care quality and safety but also well-being of health care professionals, as other literature illustrates.

"We want this to be out in the world so multiple people can understand and recognize the role of built environments and how that can be helpful for the transformation of the care model or helpful for health care workers and patients," Lim said. "If we can help people and save lives through design, what would be the reason for not doing it?"

Lim plans to continue this research with the Mayo Clinic and Georgia Tech and further investigate ways to support safety and well-being of patients and health care professionals.

Other co-authors on the paper include:
• Matthew Moore, Mayo Clinic
• Jennifer R. DuBose, Georgia Tech
• Bushra Obeidat, Jordan University of Science and Technology
• Robert Stroebel, Mayo Clinic
• Craig Zimring, Georgia Tech