In this series, Healthcare Design asks leading healthcare design professionals, firms, and owners to tell us what’s got their attention and share some ideas on the subject.

With a background as a sociologist and design strategist, Lance Carlson leads the strategies practice at Taylor (Irvine, Calif.), a full-service architectural, interiors, and strategies firm. Here, he shares his thoughts on service design, brand positioning, and the merging of healthcare with other market sectors.

1. Service design

The emergent field of service design, which puts the life and viewpoint of the customer at the heart of design solutions, is going to become hugely influential in healthcare. Focusing on the holistic experience of the user in developing solutions, this area of design addresses issues like patient and employee satisfaction, community relations, and a variety of other factors. Architects and designers who dive into projects without taking time to study user needs from an ethnographic point of view are sure to continue to produce healthcare solutions that might be efficient—but will they be effective?

2. Future role of physicians

At a recent meeting a colleague said to me, “It’s all about the doctors—they are really the only group that matters.” However, trend indications show that in the U.S. there’s growing interest in population health and alternative and more holistic forms of health providers, including traditional Chinese medicine, yoga, biofeedback, and fitness training. If healthcare consumers are moving in the direction of trainers and alternative treatment providers as part of their wellness support system will the role of the physician become less central and more of a team member? Will that transition be an easy one for physicians, employees, and patients?

3. Brand positioning and promise as an integral part of healthcare design

A memorable experience is the key to a healthcare provider’s success and yet, in design projects, the brand of the organization­—its personality, values, positioning—is rarely examined with the depth that’s necessary to determine what drives the organization, what constrains it, and if there are gaps between an aspirational brand and the current state of experience. Going forward, we’ll see more attention to brand in healthcare, and brand positioning as a framing device for design efforts will become imperative, especially as competition increases.

4. Convergence of healthcare with other market sectors

We’re seeing more overlap between the design ideas in healthcare and other sectors, including high-end hotels and spas (think Cleveland Clinic and Canyon Ranch), as the quality of the entire healthcare experience becomes more important and the power of consumers is fueled by competition between providers and relying on patient satisfaction as a driver for funding. In addition, healthcare continues to move into the retail sector, likely rendering the large centralized facility as generally obsolete in the future. Considering retail design principles as a backdrop for healthcare design will alter the delivery of care and the placement and design of facilities.

5. Consilience will guide the formation of design teams

Healthcare design will increasingly look to other areas, like anthropology, futurism, and management, to solve the needs of specific projects, create greater client value, and drive organizations forward. Given the need to attract consumers and create improved health outcomes, owners and designers will strive to understand the power of intangible experience factors, like emotion and meaning. Planning and design will need to be strategy-based and capable of creating possibilities within projects as opposed to developing finite and tactical design solutions that aren’t valid.

Lance Carlson

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