A friend of mine in New Orleans has a favorite saying: “Laissez bon temps roulez—let the good times roll!” That's how we're feeling at HEALTHCARE DESIGN right now, several weeks after the conclusion of our HEALTHCARE DESIGN .03 conference. As an editor, I've been to several hundred educational conferences over the years, and (even discounting my personal interest in this one) I don't recall experiencing many suffused with such widespread good feeling. The audience seemed to enjoy the speakers, and the speakers likewise enjoyed the interested and challenging audience; both enjoyed chatting with the exhibitors (and vice versa).

Part of the relaxed informality might have been sheer happenstance. The way the Hotel InterContinental Miami was laid out, everyone mixed and mingled on the same floor within relatively limited space. It was easy for attendees to move about, see, and talk with whom they wanted to, and attend informational sessions without having to backpack between them.

But there was more to it than geographical proximity. Part of the good feeling came, I'm convinced, from the sense that the field of healthcare design is fresh and new. Our first indication of this came with the success of our initial publication nearly two and a half years ago. We have since discovered the excitement of seeing what a creative imagination can do with something as sterile and mechanical as a hospital. Indeed, the care that goes into making life in these institutions more livable bespeaks more than a design revolution, it reveals a cultural change. It says that American healthcare, for all its high-tech glory, still has to do with human beings and wants to acknowledge that. And it's not just the professional and paraprofessional staff who do this—it's the environment.

What about the conference's content? From my perspective (I served as a proctor for some of the sessions), the presentations on green design seemed particularly popular. Case histories of recently designed hospitals in this country and even in China also drew attentive audiences. Some of the leading lights in healthcare design, such as Roger Ulrich, Jain Malkin, and Robin Orr, offered stimulating plenary sessions, and B. Joseph Pine II's insightful and entertaining keynote presentation on “experience marketing” (as opposed to traditional “goods and services marketing”) struck me as worth the price of admission itself.

As we publish this, our first HEALTHCARE DESIGN issue of the year, we're looking forward to taking up the party where we left off, with HEALTHCARE DESIGN .04, at the Hotel InterContinental in Houston, November 7-9, 2004. We will have more speakers, more exhibitors and (if we have anything to say about it) more attendees than before, but we will strive to achieve the same informal atmosphere that made HEALTHCARE DESIGN .03 so much fun. As my New Orleans pal, just up the Gulf Coast from Houston, might say, Laissez the bon temps continue to roulez. HD