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The future of healthcare architecture: obstacles and opportunities abound

Healthcare Facilities

The future of healthcare architecture: obstacles and opportunities abound

Our current political drama has made our healthcare clients view the future of their business environment in much the same way most of us approach the latest weather report, with skepticism, writes David H. Watkins, FAIA.


By David H. Watkins, FAIA, Past Healthcare Leader, EYP Health | August 23, 2017

Photo: Pixabay

The occasional pleasant surprise is always nice, but an unanticipated tornado is rarely greeted with enthusiasm. Most of us prefer a relatively predictable future with adequate warning when the occasional storm heads our way. 

Unfortunately, our current political drama has made our healthcare clients view the future of their business environment in much the same way most of us approach the latest weather report. We want to stay abreast of the latest news, but what we hear is greeted with skepticism.

Just as very few of us would bet a significant amount of our wealth on the reliability of weather predictions, our healthcare clients are struggling with how best to approach long-term planning when our national healthcare policy seems to change with the nightly news cycle.

Within this rancorous political environment and the uncertainty that it imposes on the healthcare industry, architects are asking themselves how they can best serve their healthcare clients with decisions that have significant cost and long-term implications.

Our advice to fellow architects and clients alike is to focus on what you know and avoid speculative investments.

We know, for example, that most of the nation’s healthcare infrastructure is aging, with many hospital campuses occupied by buildings that are ill-suited to meet the demands of modern healthcare.

We know that we have an aging Baby Boomer population that will require care and treatment for chronic problems that accompany old age. We also know that they are living longer than their parents did.

We’re aware, too, that the demographic and financial composition of the country is evolving. We know that many of the rural areas of the country are poorly served and lack adequate healthcare services. We also know that many urban areas have inadequate or poorly distributed trauma services.

These realities provide direction for where healthcare providers might make meaningful and defensible investments—at least until the political seas calm and the way forward is a bit more predictable.

For healthcare architects, these realities also offer potential opportunities for marketing strategies that can be tailored toward the types of projects that might surface during this stressful period. Projects could include the modernization of existing facilities, conversions from semi-private rooms to private rooms, or energy system upgrades that reduce operating costs. 

More proactively, healthcare planners and designers might consider bundling services that are directed toward strategically assisting their clients with assessing opportunities within their existing healthcare campuses—opportunities that could improve operational efficiency, space utilization, and throughput.

Architects may be as ill-equipped to resolve the healthcare policy turmoil as everyone else, but healthcare designers are very well positioned to assist their clients strategically with insight and creativity—not only to navigate the stormy waters that are currently roiling the industry, but also to make meaningful interventions that provide long-term value to the communities they and their healthcare clients serve.

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