With recent healthcare legislation promising basic coverage to millions of uninsured Americans, architects and designers are preparing for new opportunities. I recently talked with HGA medical planner Gary Nyberg, RA, about potential changes he sees impacting designers and the healthcare industry.

“There will be a shift to more community-based, neighborhood clinics,” he said. “Facilities will be more streamlined, functional and efficient, with an emphasis on the patient experience and economy.”

“Streamlined” certainly doesn’t mean dialing down the design.

In the last two decades, designers have employed such research-based tools as Evidence-Based Design and Lean Design to re-imagine the way healthcare facilities are created. By focusing on patient satisfaction and staff efficiency, healthcare institutions have shed their institutional persona with comforting interiors and more streamlined planning. Similarly, sustainable design has provided us with strategies to maximize natural light, incorporate renewable materials, and improve energy efficiency.

The results have been higher patient satisfaction and more efficient operations.
And none of this necessarily costs more. By focusing on sustainability and process efficiency, healthcare providers are able to reduce costs through lower energy bills and operational overhead.

The lessons of Evidence-Based Design, Lean Design and Sustainable Design are particularly applicable in tighter economic times—architects and interior designers can work with healthcare clients to reduce costs and maximize results. Community clinics, often the heart of a neighborhood, will be the next testing ground for forward-thinking, cost-effective healthcare design.

Over the past several years, we have designed several community clinics for HealthEast Care System in Minneapolis-St. Paul. For each, HGA looked at attributes and demographic cues unique to each neighborhood to design solutions ideally suited to their needs—while still staying within budget.

As the pressure continues for the dollars to go down, designers have new opportunities to apply their experience in fresh ways that ultimately benefits the patient.