At the recently completed ASHE PDC conference in San Diego, it was the topic of conversation-the looming specter of healthcare reform. In sessions, keynotes, on the sales floor, at dinners, and on every television set you happened by in hotel lobbies, talk of healthcare reform dominated the week.

But what I found interesting was that, based on my personal conversations anyway, politics didn't really figure into the discussion. Sure, there were opinions voiced (some louder than others), but for the most part, everyone just wanted to know what was going to happen. As one particularly astute vendor told me, “Regardless of your political leanings, we all just want to know the rules so we can get on with business.” That sentiment was echoed by nearly everyone I encountered.

It speaks to the effect that reform is going to have on the healthcare design and construction industry that many have reached the point that they just want something to happen so business can go on. One can hardly blame owners for not wanting to commit potentially hundreds of millions of dollars to new construction or renovation without knowing what's going to happen-the rug could get pulled out from under them to the tune of many, many zeroes. This, of course, is trickling down to the rest of the industry-designers, architects, and vendors alike-as without new projects, their bottom lines are sagging, as well. As the rest of the country continues to rebound from the recent economic woes, the healthcare design industry continues to be handcuffed into inactivity. The voices I heard were more frustrated than fearful.

So what's going to happen with healthcare reform? I have no idea (surprise). By the time this column sees print, the issue might be significantly closer to resolution, but in my opinion, that's a long shot. As our readers are no doubt acutely aware, the issues are beyond complicated, and no matter what happens, someone is going to be unhappy. But really, at this point, to quote Tom Petty, “The waiting is the hardest part.” HD

Todd Hutlock, Editor-in-Chief Healthcare Design 2010 April;10(4):14