The Academy of Architecture for Health Foundation (AAHF) and the Emergency Medicine Foundation (EMF) have partnered on a new grant initiative calling for research projects that study the relationship between effective emergency department (ED) design and good emergency care.

Teams applying for the $80,000 Emergency Department Planning, Operations and Design grant must include an emergency physician and an architect as project directors. The foundations are open to topics that fall within the overall principles of the grant, but suggest applicants submit proposals under one of five areas.

  • Retrofitting existing EDs to respond to man-made or natural-event scenarios
  • Analysis of the implementation and facility implications of split-flow patient care models
  • Operation and design consideration for clinical decision units
  • Effective operational and design strategies for behavioral care
  • Designing for senior care

The AAHF has supported a number of research studies over the past decade related to health care design, including how to reduce patient falls through design and best practices for inpatient care facilities. AAHF President Frank Zilm, D. Arch, FAIA, FACHA, says this grant is a timely one considering the growing burden on EDs.

"We see emergency care as a major issue in our health care system," Zilm says. "Emergency care has grown dramatically in terms of volume over the last two decades. Total U.S. emergency department visits exceeded 136 million in 2011 and has continued to grow. Most emergency departments are overcrowded and most are providing expanded services for management of behavioral health patients and observational care. So, we see this as a critical piece in terms of health care."

This is the AAHF's first joint research study with a major physician group, and it expects the team leaders of all proposals sent its way to reflect the same type of partnership — architects and physicians working together toward better patient care.

Zilm says the end goal is to understand how facility design can help to solve key issues facing emergency care. A proposal may look at one or two specific facilities during its research, but the findings gathered should have implications that can be applied on a broader scale.

"The link between operations and facilities is a really fertile area for research," Zilm says. "All of our previous studies have tended to focus on facilities with a link to operations, but they were still looking from a facility perspective. This will be a landmark study that links operations and facilities together, and makes sure we understand the clinical and professional needs along with the facility implications."

The grant's request for proposal will be available in October. Visit EMF's website for more information.