HCD 10: Kara Freihoefer, researcher

HCD 10: Kara Freihoefer, researcher


After receiving a PhD in interior design from the University of Minnesota, Kara Freihoefer joined HGA in 2012 as a design researcher, and now serves as the research director and leader of the HGA Design Insights group, which consists of researchers, process improvement engineers, design thinkers, and data analysts Teachers collaborate to help promote research and discovery, and advocate for change based on their findings.

In this position, Freihoefer is the first to carry out company-wide research programs in all market areas including healthcare, and is committed to developing practical architecture and design through the creation and application of research tools centered on empathy and curiosity. new method. Freihoefer believes that integrating research into every step of the design process will not only lead to innovation, but also wise solutions that best meet the needs of users.

The success of her approach has been demonstrated in the past year through her emergency department (ED) renovation work with Trinity Health in New England, where Freihoefer’s efforts — from literature review to shadow research to Gemba walks — taught the team how to Not only do research, but use the results to make decisions.

For example, by tracking employees in an existing space, the team can apply the collected data to propose an on-stage/off-stage layout, and finally verify a solution that will increase efficiency by 20% to 30%. Freihoefer also created what HGA calls a “core team” composed of the company’s market leaders who strive to prioritize research topics into project work. This formal process ensures that HGA’s research adopts a strategic and comprehensive approach, leading to internal research conducted in the past year, with topics including inclusive room and unit design for patients with physical and mental health comorbidities and crisis events. ED preparation.

In addition, she co-led a number of exploratory investigations on the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on outpatient telemedicine and workplace strategy and design.

The effectiveness of Freihoefer’s contributions, including her work at St. Elizabeth Healthcare in Kentucky and SSM Health in Wisconsin, has recently been certified by the Environmental Design Research Association for Excellence in Research Certificate, and she continues to share her published works across the industry Her knowledge and appearance.


What do you like best about your job?

I like working on projects, working with colleagues and users, and finding new ways to solve complex design problems.

What industry challenges do you hope to solve?

Data management. Our industry has a lot of data at your fingertips, but they are often fragmented. By better managing the data set, it is possible to find the relationship between different variables. For example, we can explore research questions such as the relationship between the size of a ward (spatial indicator) and patient and employee safety indicators (outcome indicators) such as falls or work-related injuries.

Who inspired you?

My colleagues and clients inspire me-their passion and commitment to creating designs that produce positive results makes my work as a researcher interesting and exciting.

What do you expect to be the next major trend in healthcare design?

Flexible design refers to a highly flexible and adaptable design that can seamlessly respond to emergencies, from highly infectious diseases to natural disasters to traumatic events.

What have you learned in the past year?

Agility. Due to the pandemic, we were unable to collect much field data. We must learn how to adapt and conduct research and investigations in different ways, and use the data we already have to do more.


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