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What's Ahead for Healthcare

By Robert Nieminen

The good news for the design community is that the massive influx of people seeking healthcare-related services will require the design and construction of more hospitals, of course, but more off-campus outpatient facilities as well.

Robert Nieminen | Editor

As we began planning for this month’s issue on healing, among the first topics we considered was the looming question everyone has had on their minds since March 23, 2010: How will the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (aka the ACA or Obamacare) affect our industry? When the ACA was passed, millions of Americans breathed a sigh of relief with the knowledge that they will finally be able to receive the medical care they’ve so desperately needed, but I also believe that millions more got very tense as they pondered how and where we are going to treat all of these people.

Given that the ACA is the most significant regulatory overhaul of the U.S. healthcare system since the creation of Medicare and Medicaid, as contributing writer Kylie Wroblaski notes in this month’s Focus article, “Accommodating the ACA,” I think there is legitimate cause for concern as to how the medical community will address the needs of millions of newly insured patients. The good news for the design community is that the massive influx of people seeking healthcare-related services will require the design and construction of more hospitals, of course, but more off-campus outpatient facilities as well.

“These facilities can offer anything from primary care and surgery to emergency care, be located closer to patient neighborhoods, and built freestanding or in a retail setting,” reports Wroblaski. “Designers will be expected to provide solutions for caring for more people in an efficient way, all in a variety of environments that may not have previously been considered for healthcare use.”

She also offers more insights into how the ACA will affect the design community, as well as tips for preparing for the coming surge of healthcare-related projects, so be sure to read it in its entirety and sound off on our Facebook and Twitter pages—do you agree with her assessment, or do you see the future of healthcare differently?

While the ACA won’t take full effect until January 2014, the future of healthcare is already here in many respects. The design of medical facilities like the L.A. Center for Women’s Health, one of our featured photo essays, is shattering age-old expectations of what a visit to the doctor’s office should be like.

At first glance, the center appears to be a cross between a spa and a contemporary office space—which was intentional, of course. “We spent a lot of time with potential clients from L.A. and asked them what types of environments they felt would be most comfortable in which to receive medical care. And the places that they asked for were places that seemed to be very peaceful,” says Pam Maynard, CID, principal and director of interior architecture at HMC. “The environment itself participates in the healing process by offering a space that’s reminiscent of a calming spa where women go to relax and de-stress.”

You can also catch a glimpse of the future of healthcare design in a few statistics: according to data from the U.S. Census Bureau and the National Investment Center for the Seniors Housing & Care Industry (NIC), approximately 6 percent of the U.S. population—roughly 19 million people—are aged 75 years or older, and most estimates expect that number to grow steadily over the next decade, before spiking with the arrival of the baby boom generation. That promises to translate into an increased demand for senior and assisted living facilities.

“These demographic shifts mean that we must re-envision the idea of senior living itself,” suggests contributing writer Margie Monin Dombrowski. “As more and more of our family members enter these facilities, how can we create safer, more welcoming spaces?” Find out the answer to that question and more by and reading our Trends article, “The Next Generation of Senior Living.”

Finally, it has been said that to see the future, you must first look to the past. If you’ve ever specified textiles for a healthcare environment, then you’re undoubtedly familiar with the Crypton brand, the subject of this issue’s Profile. We’d like to congratulate Craig and Randy Rubin of Crypton as they celebrate and reflect on 20 years in business, as well as what’s ahead for the ubiquitous brand. A number of you had plenty more to say in an exclusive video we’ve produced in honor of the anniversary—you can view that in our March digital edition or at our newly revamped Media Center. Log on today!