No one can predict the future, but we’re all interested in speculating what it will be like. And the ever-changing nature of healthcare makes it ripe for predictions. Based on a list compiled from conversations with The Center for Health Design’s board of directors, the 2012 HEALTHCARE DESIGN Architectural and Interior Design Showcase jurors were asked what they felt would be the 10 biggest trends affecting the next 10 years of healthcare facility design.
The aging of America
The baby boomer generation is the driver of what is and what will be. This is a well-educated, highly demanding population. And there are a lot of them: 76-79 million. Because of this, we’ll see more hospitals and clinic spaces that support the physical challenges faced by the over-60 crowd. Although no geriatric EDs were submitted for review, jurors acknowledged that these types of facilities are already being designed and built.
“There’s a connection happening between long-term care and acute care in terms of sharing of services and patient types,” says Laurie Placinski, interior project designer, Progressive AE. “So even if patients get discharged from an acute care [facility] and go to a long-term care [facility], they’re still going to end up back in acute care with those shared services. There might be longer stays and more direct transfers.”
New models for senior living that support urban living are also on the horizon, as well as more emphasis on universal design for new or renovated homes so that individuals can age in place.
“There’s a need for more understanding and compassion for older persons,” says Thomas M. Jung, architect and health planner, Thomas M. Jung Consulting, LLC, and a former regulator with the State of New York. “There has to be more everyday awareness of the impact of aging on functioning, and that someday we’ll be that person holding up traffic, moving slowly down the grocery aisle, and crossing the street. The impact of our aging society on design of healthcare is already recognized, but we also have to increase awareness of its impact on design throughout society in terms of residential construction, urban/regional planning, etc.”
The next disruptive technology that will change our lives is just around the corner, but we don’t know what it is yet. Predictive health—keeping people well instead of treating them only when they’re sick—is supported by technology. We’re also seeing the advancement of nanotechnology and more use of telemedicine and home monitoring equipment to observe and treat patients, including “do-it-yourself” diagnostic apps for smart phones/tablets.
This means that the size of the hospital may shrink, but there will be a need to have spaces that support the use of these technologies. Homes may become extensions of the physician’s office.
“Maybe the technology is not there yet to reach people virtually and manage their care, but it’s going to be huge,” says Sarah Bader, principal firmwide practice leader, health and wellness, Gensler. “Coupled with that is your ability to monitor yourself with things like Nike fuel bands and blood pressure tools. All this is going to be one big soup of technological stuff that will help you understand how healthy you are, how to stay healthy, and better communicate with your doctor.”
Designing for technology continues to be a challenge. “What we saw in this year’s architectural review was the continued awkwardness of how to put the computers inside and outside of patient rooms,” says Bruce K. Komiske, chief, new hospital design and construction, Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago. “There’s also the TV screen. The problem is that as soon as you get the solution, the technology changes, so two years later it doesn’t work.”