Connecting the Dots in Healthcare

Our inaugural Design Connections event gathers leading healthcare thinkers and designers to ask the big questions.

On February 17, we kicked off our first-ever Design Connections event at the beautiful Island Hotel in Newport Beach, Calif. For three days, we heard from key leaders in healthcare design and grappled with the host of issues facing this rapidly evolving sector of the market.

Our 80 guests represented the International Interior Design Association (IIDA), the American Society of Interior Designers (ASID), the American Academy of Healthcare Interior Designers (AAHID), the New York School of Interior Design (NYSID), and dozens of top-rated U.S. design practices and manufacturers. Lively panel discussions, CEU sessions, boardroom meetings, and one-on-one networking chats revealed many of the questions facing both designers and the manufacturers who supply them. And while solving these big-picture riddles will almost certainly require more than the short time we spent together, here’s a quick recap of some of the most pressing topics raised by attendees.

the decentralization of care
One of the biggest challenges and opportunities currently facing healthcare designers is the move to community-based care models, where patients choose the services they need in a supportive yet independent environment. The form and structure of these holistic communities will be largely determined by healthcare designers, and as Margi Kaminski, ASID, construction coordinator/interior design with Cadence Health detailed at the event, their experiments are just beginning.

“We recently received a large grant to establish a home healthcare model that just really kind of blows up everything we know about healthcare design outside of the more commercial setting, and it was an interesting outcome,” Kaminski said during the opening session, Patient Experience and the Future Role of Interior Design. “The one physician who’s leading this up, he had one particular patient who was using the emergency room almost on a weekly basis, and it was getting to be a problem. So they started providing home healthcare to her, and it radically reduced the amount of money and the effort that we spent to treat this woman. It really turned her quality of life around. It will be interesting to see as time goes on if that will become a more popular modality. It’s like what’s old is new again.”

the “doc in a box” age
Changes in healthcare delivery aren’t just limited to long-term care environments or specialized communities; thanks to cost and competitive pressures, drastic changes will be coming to healthcare consumers everywhere. Attendees emphasized the importance of staying appraised of changing standards and trends in the volatile years ahead.

“I heard one healthcare CEO predict that in 5 years 20 percent of the hospitals will be shut down—most of them rural hospitals,” recounted Ridley Kinsey, director of healthcare markets for Patcraft. “Because of financial pressure they’re not going to make it, so that leaves a big gap if you just look at that on its own. On the other hand, you hear Wal-Mart within the next five years plans to have a ‘doc in the box’ in all their rural facilities, so that’s filling that void pretty quickly. They already have a pharmacy; they already have eye care centers. It’s really pretty cheap, quick, and easy to put a little facility in there, and then they’re a total provider.”

“We’re already seeing some other larger healthcare systems now look at their standards programs to create consumer-driven healthcare brands, not just in the U.S. but globally,” he added. “Ten years from now, there are going to be more and more global healthcare brands.”

the technology race
Technology hasn’t just changed how medical care is delivered—it has changed consumers’ expectations for the entire healthcare experience. According to Jocelyn Stroupe, ASID, AAHID, EDAC, IIDA, principal and director of healthcare interiors with Cannon Design, the continued integration of consumer and medical technologies is necessitating a rethinking of how our healthcare facilities should look and work.

“One important aspect of the use of technology ties directly to that consumer model, where everything is about personalized care,” Stroupe said. “Through technology, the ability to personalize messages to individuals, to really understand what it is that they need at a given time is pretty incredible. We’re looking at the design of facilities themselves in a very different way.”

“I’m working on an ambulatory care project right now where the whole design is turned upside down just because of the availability of technology,” she continued. “We have no check-in desks; we have no reception desks in this facility. The patient’s going to register for their appointments online. When they come to the facility, the valet will greet them and tell them exactly where they need to go, so that every step is kind of orchestrated for them in advance and becomes very seamless. It really makes you think differently about how these facilities operationalize themselves—the way they can deal with the individual needs that a patient might have and be able to adapt quickly.”

the need to think collaboratively
As the healthcare environment grows more complex, the need for collaborative, interdisciplinary design teams grows in importance. It was a point not lost on our attendees, who worked in specialties ranging from acute care design to hospital administration, although many experts emphasized the need to expand boundaries further.

“How do you design the things that maintain the building in conjunction with your product as a system?” asked Jane Rohde, AIA, FIIDA, ACHA, AAHID, LEED AP, principal with JSR Associates, Inc. during a panel session on evidence-based product development. “If castors were higher and taller, we’d get a better radius and they wouldn’t go clunking into your wall system every day. But when you look at those processes of how you work together, it’s not just about the individual product. It’s about all of those other groups that we don’t ever have dialogues with. You know, where’s the Rubbermaid guy? Where’s the Diaper Genie guy? Because those materials are what we end up using, and from working in-house, you get a different perspective than if you’re a designer working from the outside. When you work inside, you see how this collaboration needs to occur.”

“Our creative life really is a journey, because the more you see, the more you want to see, and the less you think your way is the only way,” added Pamela Rainey, IIDA, ASID, creative director with Patcraft, during her CEU presentation, Toward a More Creative Life. “For 25 years we’ve been talking about the same problems in this healthcare arena of interiors. You know, maybe it’s time for some outsider thinking.”

healthcare standards gaps
In one of the most engaging discussions of the event, CF Stinson Vice President Glen Stinson, Herman Miller Director of Healthcare Architecture and Design Roger Call, and Roppe Flooring Marketing Manager Jeremy Whipple joined Patcraft’s Ridley Kinsey on stage to discuss the future of healthcare design from the manufacturers’ perspective. During the hour-long panel, audience members had more questions to ask than time allowed. One topic in particular commanded their attention: “Is this [product] for 24/7 environments in healthcare? How many times have you asked that question and a manufacturer can’t tell you because they’re not being asked to test for it?”

“Right now, at least on our side, we’re having difficulty getting even a commercial standard set, let alone for a specific segment like healthcare. And what would create that is consistent demand. Being asked for it, and being asked for it consistently,” noted Whipple. “What created some of the transparency, as far as the formulations and the raw ingredients in our products, is because there was a consistent message from folks like yourselves that you expect that transparency.”

The presenters also acknowledged that the conversation needs to go both ways. “I think it also goes back to education,” said Stinson. “In our world, abrasion is really one small part of the durability of a textile—things like seam slippage come very much into play with what we’re talking about here. But when designers look through a website to find a product they say, ‘It’s got to be 100,000 double rubs.’ In reality, your pants are probably going to wear out before 100,000 double rubs. They should be asking combination questions abut seam strengths, double rubs, etc. So we’ve got a job to do, and that is to train our team and train the design community that—hey, it’s not just this; it’s a combination of things that contribute to the best end-result.”

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