From healthcare reform to maintaining business solvency, the panel of experts that took the stage Tuesday morning at HEALTHCARE DESIGN.11 covered it all during the general session “New Directions in the Future of Healthcare Design—The Experts Speak Out.”

Speakers included Debajyoti Pati, PhD, MASA, FIIA, LEED AP, vice president, director of research, HKS Architects; Jain Malkin, CID, AAHID, EDAC, president, Jain Malkin Inc.; Sheila F. Cahnman, AIA, ACHA, LEED AP, group vice president/regional healthcare leader, HOK; Kim E. Shinn, PE, LEED AP BD+C, CxA, senior sustainability consultant, TLC Engineering; and Rosalyn Cama, president, CAMA Incorporated.

Shinn and Gormley sat on the panel as representatives of the Healthcare Building Ideas Editorial Advisory Board; with Malkin, Cama, and Cahnman serving on the same board for sister magazine HEALTHCARE DESIGN; and Pati, as well as Malkin, serving on the board for the Health Environments Research and Design Journal.

Where the different disciplines met in the middle came to be on the topic of sustainability. Shinn, a sustainability expert who helped form the Green Guide for Health Care, stressed the importance of moving beyond what he dubs “green bling” to actually achieving sustainability.

“If you’re not being sustainable, you’re not being a good business person. That’s what it comes down to,” he says, adding that that business mentality must move beyond the next quarter, but to the next generation and creating a healthy environment for our children and our children’s children.

Not only is sustainability achieved through the efficiencies created, but also through using healthcare architects to the best of their abilities, i.e. to design a building that will stand the test of time.

“We can’t build ugly buildings because we’ll tear them down. That’s not sustainable,” Shinn says.

And when it comes to buildings, Cahnman says she’s seeing clients spending their capital on technology upgrades, consolidations, and repositioning of themselves in the marketplace, leaving fewer dollars available for construction projects. She encouraged the HCD.11 attendees to understand what their clients are going through and assist them in the re-evaluation of their operations to “create economies of scale that will go farther in this new healthcare environment.”

“You have to change to build and, then at some point, you have to build to change,” she says.

While remodels and renovations continue to be a popular solution for many facilities, the panel also noted that aging infrastructure combined with today's lower costs are, at the same time, fueling new construction.

“This is probably the sweetest spot for getting design and construction done than we’ve seen in a generation,” Shinn says.

Pati agreed: “I have no doubt that the demand for hospitals will grow, and we really can’t do with the current stock.”

However, while what shape healthcare reform will eventually take remains unclear, the current state of healthcare in the United States is unsustainable, so Cahnman reminded that medical home models of care and ambulatory clinics will likely take on a more pronounced role, whereas acute care settings will perhaps be treating the more acute patient.

“It really needs to be configured for the new reality,” she says.