The goal of the American College of Healthcare Architects (ACHA or "the College") is to transform health care through better built environments. To that end, ACHA provides board certification to architects in the United States and Canada who specialize in health care. The certification process is rigorous and overseen by an independent testing agency, in order to establish a professionally sound, legally defensible standard by which people can identify themselves as health care architects.
The tagline of the College is Experienced, Certified, Preferred, but what does that mean and how it that relevant to the C-Suite, the industry, and most importantly, the patients?
The College is comprised of certified healthcare architects with a deep knowledge of design and the impact on the healthcare community. According to a survey of its certificants in 2014, the College found:
- ACHA certified architects have 28.7 years of healthcare design experience.
- Nearly 90% of all ACHA certified architects focus primarily on healthcare design.
- ACHA certified architects have published an article or a book on a healthcare topic an average of 4.5 times.
- ACHA certified architects have presented a topic at a healthcare conference or similar event an average of 8.7 times.
The first step in certification is having that experience reviewed by an independent body of peers who carefully examine the portfolio submitted by a candidate. Once the level of required experience is confirmed, the candidate is approved to sit for the examination.
To preserve the integrity of the testing process, it continues to be overseen by an independent, third-party testing company. Questions are developed by the ACHA exam committee, which is chaired by an ACHA certified architect and appointed by the College's board of regents. These questions are reviewed for clarity and properly framed with input from the testing firm. This process ensures questions cover the needed material, are not ambiguously worded and conform to scientifically appropriate models for examining candidates. Because test takers must be licensed architects, the exam is geared towards topics related specifically to health care projects, as opposed to architectural domains already covered by architectural licensure organizations. Unlike many other certifications, the ACHA examination is based on experience and much of the content cannot be studied.
The certification exam is divided into four major sections with questions falling into the categories of analysis, application and recall. The first section covers the forces that drive the business of health care, including economics, regulation and reimbursement, health care models and technology. The second section is about pre-design, with questions regarding programming and master planning. The third section, on design, has questions about facility design, departmental design and detailed design, like coordinating equipment layouts, requirements and manufacturer specifications or developing room data to align with patient and staff safety, experience and privacy needs. The final section covers delivery and implementation, with questions about contracts; construction documents; reviewing owner-provided fixed medical equipment and technologies for coordination with contract documents; assisting the owner with approval, licensing and certificate of occupancy processes; and post-occupancy evaluation and research. Each item on the test is linked to a specific health care setting: general, acute care, post-acute care, outpatient care or behavioral and mental health care.
The entire certification process is designed to recognize the expertise of architects who have substantial experience in all aspects of health care architecture projects. Architects who earn the ACHA credential have had their health care experience and knowledge independently evaluated and approved through the application, portfolio and testing process. It's a stamp of approval that differentiates architects with specialized health care skills for their clients, employers and colleagues.
While there are many highly qualified and experienced healthcare architects in the industry, some discerning industry leaders are more comfortable going with an ACHA architect who has been through the rigorous certification process. The College encourages professionals with this specialty to do the same, whether emerging professionals or icons in the field.
Message from the President
Onward and Upward!!!
Over the last year, your ACHA Board of Regents has been
focused on two key components of our purpose: 1) maintaining the value of Board
certification in our healthcare specialty, and 2) developing the pathways to
express that value in multiple realms.
More recently, the Board had identified more than 90 ideas, initiatives,
or program adjustments within the business of the College. Most of these had to do with the execution of
current programs, while some were very strategic in nature. However, the oft-quoted maxim comes to mind:
“If everything is a priority, then nothing is.” So, your Regents have
diligently and purposefully concentrated that very large list to only five key
initiatives, each of which will play out over the next few months and
years. While the ideas are clear, most
of the details are under development.
1. We believe that significant
gaps exist between the College and those who have yet to be certified. While we may be able to explain the reasons,
the gaps still remain. For the sake and
future of the profession, we will see them bridged. The Board has authorized a significant
campaign to connect pre-certificants with the value of the College through a
series of attractive interventions.
Again, many details are still brewing.
2. One of the early tag lines of
the College identified the certified as the “Best and the Brightest”. We may all like to think that, but such
qualities are not easily defined nor empirically defendable. However, in my
observation, those that are certified possess a high capacity of knowledge,
skills, and experience, and they have demonstrated the gumption to go for the
ring and reach higher in their careers beyond their firms. As such, the College
has a responsibility to provide a pathway for continuous professional
development spanning one’s entire career as a healthcare architect from
pre-academic to post-retirement.
3. The College has remained
largely invisible within the broad realm of all architects, and within those
who practice healthcare architecture.
Even those “in the know” have difficulty articulating the higher value
of Board certification to clients, uncertified colleagues, and firm
executives. Recognizing this problem,
the Board has authorized the production of two short videos to capture the
spirit of the College and arm viewers with succinct talking points about the
value of Board certification. One will focus on those outside of the College,
and the other will focus on firm executives. Concepts and storyboards have been
developed, live video has been shot, B-roll imagery has been captured, and the
post-production is well underway, as we prepare for publication later this
4. At the 2017 ASHE PDC, executives
from the ACHA met with executives from ASHE to explore common ground. Later
mid-year, the Boards of each organization reviewed presentations by executives
of the other’s organization, which resulted in confirmed resolve and mutual
benefit. There is considerable work yet to be Bill Hercules done. However, never has the relationship between those
that administer architectural selection processes and manage projects for their
hospitals (ASHE) and the independently credentialed healthcare architects
(ACHA) been more energized.
5. Finally, over the past two
years, the executives of the various constituent organizations of our
profession have been meeting. These meetings have focused on clarifying the
roles of each organization through simple two-word statements and viewing each
organization’s unique contributions holistically to affirm their value to the
profession. While our professional
family has grown many branches over the years, we are all part of the same
tree, rooted in the practice of healthcare architecture. We will be announcing
elements of this work at the upcoming Summer Leadership Summit in Chicago.
These outcomes will necessarily require the joint efforts
of various ACHA committees and taskforces to be fully realized. While we do have scores of people already
contributing mightily to advance our College, these goals will stretch them
even farther. Our website lists ways for you to connect your unique talents
with others toward enriching the value of the ACHA for years to come. We also expect that by deepening your involvement,
you will become enriched both personally and professionally by the
relationships you develop with other high-fliers. Thank you in advance for your
willingness to join us as we shape our collective future.
William J. Hercules, FAIA, FACHA
President, American College of Healthcare Architects, 2018
Become a Certified Healthcare Architect
We appreciate your interest in the American College of Healthcare Architects. If you, or someone you know is qualified, the Regents invite submission of an application. Learn about the ACHA application process.