It's never a good thing when subject matter becomes “formulaic”, i.e., made up of tried and true, totally unsurprising ingredients. Take, for example, these clichéd story lines: boy meets girl, boy loses girl, boy gets girl back; hero looks heroic, hero encounters severe obstacle(s), hero emerges even more heroic; cowboy meets girl, cowboy fights bad guy, cowboy kisses horse—that sort of thing.

It's really way too soon (thankfully) to say this of modern healthcare design. New concepts continue to emerge, interplay in new ways with social and technological change, and lead to new forms and spatial relationships. Perhaps we have gotten to the point, though, where we can identify enough specific ingredients to provoke nods of recognition.

Case in point: late last year, I received an e-mail from the Memorial Hermann System, an integrated healthcare organization encompassing 14 hospitals, three long-term care facilities, and various specialty treatment centers in the Houston area. The message was billed as their “Top 10 List of What's In and What's Out in Hospitals of the Future”. Read Memorial Hermann's pairings below and see if you don't agree with their version of what's out and what's in for healthcare design:

  1. Out: Open-back hospital gowns; In: Betsey Johnson PJs

  2. Out: Bland food served promptly at 8 a.m., noon, and 5 p.m.; In: Gourmet chefs and room service

  3. Out: Overhead paging; In: Hands-free, wireless communication devices enabling instant connectivity with others anywhere in the hospital

  4. Out: File rooms; In: Paperless (save a life, save a tree)

  5. Out: Pacing the halls and waiting; In: Operating room tracking via a large display screen in pre- or post-op areas

  6. Out: Cold rooms with white institutional walls; In: Healing gardens, meditation rooms, music, and massage therapy

  7. Out: No pets allowed; In: Pet therapy

  8. Out: Postage-stamp–sized shower stalls; In: Marble Jacuzzi tubs

  9. Out: Semiprivate rooms and isolation from daily activities; In: All private rooms and concierge services

  10. Out: Rubbing alcohol and disinfectant; In: Aromatherapy

Altogether, that's about as neat a summing up as I can imagine. It's not formulaic yet, but I submit that soon all healthcare design will be an elaboration of the themes laid out by these pairings. I eagerly wait to see what new forms and planning concepts emerge.

Meanwhile, I have a horse to attend to…. HD

Richard L. Peck, Editor-in-CHIEF