A framework for optimising the design of rehabilitation facilities: Reframing stroke rehabilitation spaces as learning spaces

Stroke rehabilitation is a learning process in which people who have had a stroke are supported to re-learn skills or abilities such as walking, speaking, or using their arm.


The aim of this study is to describe what should be prioritised in the design of inpatient stroke rehabilitation facilities so that the design of these facilities can be optimised for patients’ learning.

There is evidence that the built environment can impact health outcomes, but the unique requirements of rehabilitation environments is not well understood. Rehabilitation environments have long been designed similarly to acute healthcare environments, despite the distinct needs of rehabilitation patients. Many stakeholder perspectives must be considered if we are to develop a shared understanding of how stroke rehabilitation facility design could be optimised for learning. We held a series of expert elicitation workshops to synthesise the perspectives of stroke patients, clinicians, policy makers, architects and designers, health environments researchers, and learning environments researchers. Importantly, we involved learning environments experts in this research to help to re-conceptualise rehabilitation spaces as learning spaces. During these workshops, we used a structured decision-making process called Value Focused Thinking to combine the diverse stakeholder perspectives and produce a framework of what is important in rehabilitation facility design. This framework can be used to inform new designs for stroke rehabilitation environments.

This project is funded by Hallmark Aging Research Initiative (HARI) seed funding grant for multidisciplinary research project titled ‘Reframing stroke rehabilitation spaces: The role of learning in recovery and its implications for design evaluation’, 2017-2018.

Pursuit Article, University of Melbourne

Lipson-Smith R, Churilov L, Newton C, Zeeman H, Bernhardt J. A framework for designing inpatient stroke rehabilitation facilities: a new approach using interdisciplinary value-focused thinking. Health Environments Research and Design Journal 2019:1-17. doi: 10.1177/1937586719831450


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