“Reflections” is a new column featuring thoughts and commentary by former HEALTHCARE DESIGN Editor-in-Chief. Richard L. Peck.

HEALTHCARE DESIGN has traditionally been a “halvsies” book-roughly half architects/designers and half hospital planners in its audience make-up. What I have found interesting over the years is that these two groups speak significantly different languages in discussing their projects. I think you'll find an interesting example of this in this month's Showcase article on the Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh, but (at risk of gross stereotyping) let me offer a made-up sampling of each:

Architect/Designer: “We tried to create a holistic healing environment supporting the clinical, sensory, and spiritual needs of patients and families. It is a warm, welcoming environment, offering pleasant distractions, exposure to nature and natural light, and a sense of personal control that will enhance the healing process and energize the performance of staff.”

Hospital Planner: “We brought this project in on time and under-budget. It looks great, and we're offering amenities that we hope patients and families will enjoy and will tell their friends about. Our staff is performing more efficiently, with reduced turnover and enhanced recruitment appeal. The equipment is modern, works well, and is supported by a safe, cost-effective infrastructure. All in all, we should be set for another 15 or 20 years.”

Obviously these two groups have to work together to get the project done. For the more successful projects, they seem to understand each other's language sufficiently to make it happen. The architect/designer camp is expected to be visionary, but know they will be held to a strict accounting for costs and practicality. Hospital planners know their business goals and budgets (healthcare is a business, after all), but they are open to modern design options and to seeing how these can be translated into satisfied patients.

That's what's so interesting about the field of healthcare design-that these quite different camps can come together in this demanding world and create such architecturally appealing, high-functioning environments.

But wait, there's a third party involved, isn't there-which is to say, we recently began publishing a magazine called Healthcare Building Ideas, addressing the more construction-oriented phases of these projects. Now, all of a sudden, the contractor's voice is being heard. (True, that voice did get a hearing to some extent in this magazine's “Contractor's View” department, but only in a limited sense.) Of course, contractors apply on-the-ground practicality to the construction of buildings, sometimes engaged (controversially) in value engineering, but at their best, are always key contributors to realizing the visions and goals of designers and planners.

Still, we haven't published HBI very long yet, so I still don't have their voices down. I get the feeling, though, they won't be shy in clueing me in. HD

Healthcare Design 2009 August;9(8):104