For the past few years, Mortenson Construction has surveyed attendees of the HEALTHCARE DESIGN Conference, which was held in Phoenix this past year, and compiled the results into white papers that provide a general picture of the state of the healthcare design industry, as well as facilities trends. As in years past, the company’s recent white paper provides an opportunity to read about some of the challenges that this group of professionals face as well as a few bright spots that arose in the past year as the industry worked to regain its foothold.

According to Mortenson, the 2012 survey participants gave a healthy but uncertain assessment of their institutions’ financial health. Eighty percent of the respondents reported growing design and construction activity in 2012, despite increasing costs, shrinking reimbursements, and uncertainty about Medicare modifications by Congress. It was no surprise that the feedback suggested a greater focus on reducing costs, improving the patient experience and comfort, and addressing staff satisfaction and safety.

As might be expected, the report also showed more architects than healthcare providers among the respondents who believed that design impacts the patient experience, staff satisfaction and effectiveness, patient outcomes, and staff recruiting and retention.

When asked about the practice behaviors that prevent project teams from working together effectively, providers cited poor communication, while 22% of architects reported misaligned goals and priorities, which was a close second for providers, too.

Building information modeling/virtual design construction is still seen as a useful tool with strong benefits for both healthcare providers and architects. Other categories in the survey included delivery method trends and future facilities (looking forward 10 years).

Facilities trends continue to point toward the pursuit of operational and energy efficiencies that reduce costs, according to providers. Other operational changes taking place are the result of proven research through evidence-based design. Participants see many opportunities for change, especially in creating better processes and designs for various areas in healthcare facilities.

There’s certainly an air of optimism for the future of healthcare, with just 2 percent of respondents feeling pessimistic or very pessimistic. Most of those surveyed reported that they know change is taking place and is necessary, whether or not the industry, or the nation, is ready. As one participant said: “We have no choice—change is coming. People are generally averse to change, but in the end we can only move forward.”