“Where will your hospital be making money in 5 years?” “I have no idea.” This recent exchange took place with a long term friend and client as we discussed the changes happening in healthcare. I’ve been involved with the planning and design of healthcare facilities for 28 years and find the whole industry fascinating. Tour a hospital on any given day and you will witness a range of emotions and personal drama that you will rarely see anywhere. From the excitement and joy of child birth to the helplessness of a new mom and dad anguishing over their child in a neonatal intensive care unit, the realities of life are always present in a hospital.
As a design firm, we’re not the ones performing surgery and we’re not providing bedside care, but we can still impact the lives of not only the patients, but of the staff and visitors as well. A tremendous amount of science has gone into the development of a healing environment. All of our senses come into play in every aspect of our life, and even more so when we are compromised due to illness. Everything from natural light and sounds to having space for family members to participate in the healing process play an integral role in an individual’s healing process.
We also have a responsibility to improve the workplace environment for doctors and staff to reduce their stress and fatigue. This can be accomplished through efficient, functional planning – finding ways to help them do their jobs while taking fewer steps, having the appropriate supplies more easily accessible and integrating technology in a way the helps everyone involved.
Healthcare is a business. It has to be in order to survive. I asked a client nearing retirement to tell me the biggest change in healthcare he’d seen during his career, and his answer surprised me: the increase of non-clinical people needed due to government regulations. Very few people were in non-clinical roles when he starting working in hospitals, and now they outnumber the care providers. This trend will continue, and at a very fast pace. Imagine running a business in which your non-revenue generating staff is increasing and your revenue generating staff is staying the same or decreasing.
Designing for the healthcare industry has always been – and will continue to be – a challenging and rewarding task, just as the process of delivering healthcare will always play a critical role in our society. National Geographic magazine recently carried a picture of a baby on its cover with the headline: “This baby will live to be 120”. It’s how we handle our wellness and health issues that will determine if this is a good thing or not.