Texas A&M Professor Roger Ulrich, a behavioral scientist whose research into the influence of health facility design on patient recovery has revolutionized the architecture-for-health industry in the United States, addressed the Royal Society, the United Kingdom's national academy of science, June 25, 2003 in London, England.
Ulrich's lecture, "The Effects of Health Care Architecture and Art on Medical Outcomes," was held in the Royal Society's Trust Lecture Hall.
"I am greatly honored to have had this opportunity," said Ulrich, director of the Center for Health Systems and Design at A&M's College of Architecture. "The invitation showed that the Royal Society recognizes the importance of the research we are conducting here at Texas A&M. It proves that A&M research is recognized not only by the architecture community internationally, but by the scientific community as well."
Ulrich's lecture was part of the United Kingdom's annual Architecture Week festivities, a celebration of the built environment organized by the Arts Council of England in association with the Royal Institute of British Architects and the Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment. The weeklong celebrity-studded celebration, themed "The Way We Live," featured an array of architecture-oriented events, exhibits, lectures and tours throughout the United Kingdom.
Ulrich, an architecture professor, discussed emerging scientific research indicating that better buildings can improve medical outcomes, decrease medical errors and reduce long-term health care costs.
Ulrich gained international prominence in 1984, when his paper examining the affects of having a window view of a natural setting, rather than a window view of brick buildings, was published in Science, a premier research journal. Ulrich's research showed that patients with views of nature, as opposed to buildings, recovered faster, received fewer negative evaluations from nurses and received fewer moderate-to-strong doses of analgesics. Ulrich's research had a profound influence on the form, location, landscaping and interior design of many hospitals and other health care facilities built or renovated after his article was published. His work also influenced the development of new hospital accreditation criteria requiring hospitals to provide patients with "pleasant" window views.
"Ulrich's article really set the health systems design field on its path," said James Varni, a professor of landscape architecture and urban planning at Texas A&M. "It was really a ground-breaking article."
Ulrich's research demonstrated that health care facilities actually save money in the long run by investing in art and garden space and by providing comfortable waiting areas and larger single-occupancy patient rooms with natural views and family accommodations.
"The issues Dr. Ulrich raises are of great concern to the health care and architecture professions in the United Kingdom," said Marjorie Allthorpe-Guyton, director of visual arts for the Arts Council of England. "The evidence needs wider dissemination to attract political support. The work of Dr. Ulrich and his colleagues has a growing impact in the United Kingdom. Holding this event at the Royal Society will attract people from across sectors and further raise interests in the debate."
News of Ulrich's address to the Royal Society generated additional invitations for him to speak to health care organizations throughout Great Britain. After addressing the Royal Society, he traveled to Scotland to speak to 1500 administrative delegates at the annual conference of the National Health Service Trust. Afterwards, he met with a group of Great Britain's leading health care officials.
"Dr. Ulrich was put in a situation where he could influence policy makers," Varni said. "He could literally change the direction of significant construction in the United Kingdom. It was an opportunity that very few scientists get."
With Great Britain on the verge of a health care construction boom, Ulrich's visit was also well timed.
According to Ulrich, the United Kingdom's health care budget has been whittled down to just five percent of its gross national product, compared to the 13 percent of the GNP that the United States dedicates to health care. Currently, he said, the United Kingdom is aiming to increase its health care budget to eight percent, including the construction of 100 major hospitals, 3,000 to 4,000 outpatient primary care facilities, as well as hundreds of "one stop" clinics.
"Never has there been such a profound opportunity to put the area of evidence-based design to tremendous use and benefit," Ulrich said. "The United Kingdom definitely recognizes that opportunity."
Center for Health Systems and Design