Field Research

Research Outside the Lab

Sometimes the best way to learn about something is to get out of the office and go into the field to make observations. We use several different tools to help us understand and capture data from live settings. These range from casual observation through site tours, to informal interviews, structured focus groups and more systematic observations such as behavior mapping and shadowing.

We visit many different types of facilities to help us understand the nature of the work being done there and the inherant challenges. Getting out of the classroom and into the field is particularly important in the courses we support such as the Healthcare Design of the Future series.

We use structured observations in a number of our projects. At the Sibley Heart Center, researchers spent 15 days in different pediatric cardiac clinics documenting the steps in the patient journey and amount of time spent at each step. We used this information to create a process map, which allowed us to begin to identify bottlenecks in the patient flow. Finally, we built a discrete event model, to simulate and predict the impact changes to the schedules and resources would have on outcomes. This allowed rapid, low-risk testing of solutions which were used to optimize the care process.

Several of our projects utilized behavior mapping. At Cherokee Indian Hospital we documented the activity of the outpatient clinic staff in two of their team rooms. The resulting maps revealed differences in collaborative behaviors based on the different room configurations. We conducted similar observations at the Mercy Care clinic in downtown Atlanta, but this time we used electronic tablets to record the data, simplifying the process.

We constantly develop our field research methods and build new tools for collecting observation data and generating informational graphics to understand that data.