Measuring the Success of Your Art Program
After years of research and practice, there is a general agreement in the healthcare industry that appropriate artwork can contribute to a healing environment and support evidence based design concepts. But there is very little controlled investigative research currently taking place. At Distinctive Art Source, we expect this has much to do with the expense and expertise required to conduct formal post-occupancy research. However, our clients tell us that they make informed decisions on projects based on simple research initiatives that don't require a tremendous investment. And even the most elementary research project can yield valuable information in planning the next phase of your art program.
The following tips will help in developing your own informal research project to measure the effectiveness of your hospital art program.
1. Know What to Measure. It's important to understand the goals of your research and to be clear about your objectives. Take the time to define your goals clearly. What is it that you intend the art program will do? Here are some possible objectives to consider:
· Decrease patient requests for pain medication
· Decrease patient or visitor feelings of anxiety, sadness or boredom
· Increase feelings of comfort or relaxation
· Improve nurse-patient communication
· Enhance patient/visitor satisfaction in regards to wait time
· Contribute to overall satisfaction or perception of quality of care
· Produce economic benefits such as deceasing staff turnover
· Contribute to effectiveness of wayfinding strategy
· Create a positive distraction
2. Start Small. It can be overwhelming to take on a research project, especially if it seems to have too many elements. Sometimes it's best to select just one or two key questions to study. The research you gather will be targeted and focused. For example, if you want to know the effect of a digital art program in the patient room on the need for pain medication, isolate you research to that question. It can be tempting to capture additional data at the same time, but it's best to collect only the information that you can potentially use later. You can also start small by creating and measuring a pilot the program on one unit or area of the hospital.
3. Establish a Benchmark. As with any type of research, it's important to know what the benchmark is. After you clearly define your goal, establish an accurate benchmark so you can measure your results. This is a step that often causes confusion because it's difficult to isolate all the variables that could have a potential impact on the results. For example, how can we accurately measure the impact of an art program on staff turnover? Since you are probably already measuring turnover rates, your benchmark is in place. Consider further defining your benchmark by adding a question to an employee satisfaction survey that addresses the effect of artwork on satisfaction.
4. Think Outside the Survey Box. Most of us think "survey" when we consider research projects. But you can gather valuable data through other collection methods as well. Consider interviews with patients, family or visitors as an option. You can also try focus groups of staff, physicians or community members. Or, perhaps there is an opportunity to measure behavior via observation. Remember to tap into existing research tools to make the most of scarce resources.
5. Respond to Findings. If you invest the time and resources into collecting valuable information about the effectiveness of your art program, then be sure to act on the findings! Communicate the results internally and make the necessary changes to existing and future art programs.
The more information we gather about the impact of healthcare art, the better prepared we will be to transform the visual experience for patients and visitors. More information about research in the field of evidence based design for healthcare can be found on the Center for Healthcare Design website at http://www.healthdesign.org/.
How are you measuring the success of your art program? We would love to hear from you!