With its co-location with the “New Prescriptions for Transforming Healthcare” program from Healthcare Institute, an IFMA Alliance Partner, and the Corporate Realty, Design & Management Institute, our Healthcare Design Academy in Portland, Ore., offered a great range of perspectives on the issues facing healthcare design and construction today—all within a very short time frame. Over a day and a half in June, facility managers, architects, owners, interior designers, construction execs, and lowly members of the media (ahem) all shared the stage to discuss key challenges and take the pulse of progress, largely through the lens of projects near and dear to the Pacific Northwest.

There was a lot of useful insight, and I tapped out pages’ worth of notes through all the sessions. But here are a few of the points that really caught my notice:

1) When you assemble a panel of facility managers and ask their opinions on architecture and design initiatives, you’re naturally going to get a very specific perspective. Which was great. Among their challenges: competing with surgeons and their requests for sexy new equipment for dollars to tend to (yawn) infrastructure issues. The best way to sell their critical needs to the c-suite is offering hard data on ROI, but that creates an additional challenge for facilities teams: “What we need are people who know what to do with the data, not just how to get it,” said one panelist. That, and savvy speaking skills. “There are some really great facility managers out there, but not all of them have boardroom presence,” another panelist lamented.

What stood out the most to me from this session, however, was the response to a question about LEED as a benchmark: “There are a lot of really good things about LEED buildings. But some things, like green roofs, are just an operations problem waiting to happen. Unless it adds aesthetic value, all my guys will tell you a green roof is not worth the extra LEED point or two.” I’d love to hear more from the design community on your thoughts about this.

2) Speaking of LEED: The panel for “Healthcare Sustainability Design: A Look Forward” included Willy Paul, executive director for national facilities services, Northwest Region at Kaiser Foundation Health Plan. Kaiser Permanente has a well-known reputation for its green efforts, including a commitment to meet LEED Gold standards (minimum) for all its new hospitals and major construction projects. But major sustainability issues continue to face challenges, Paul said, as systems are faced with bigger fish to fry. “I challenge anyone here to share your thoughts on where we have the most opportunity for [sustainability] innovation in order to drive down costs,” he said.

3) On a different note, as healthcare systems reach farther and farther into their communities with various ambulatory facilities, clinics, and more, the need for precise market analytics is growing. Bill Davenhall, senior health adviser for geographic research firm Esri, offered up a five-step plan that systems can use to determine where to put their new outreach facilities—and how to match the right services to each area. Using input from Providence Health as an example, Davenhall illustrated one of the steps: Rank your market areas before choosing your sites. “Let’s divide Portland up into six areas and figure out what they look like,” he said. “Do they make sense from an accessibility standpoint? [Research shows that] people will travel about 14 minutes to see a doctor. Are the populations in each area the ones that you and your staff do a good job of taking care of, both from a quality care and financial model standpoint?” Determining the points of comparison and assigning numerical value to them allows systems to compare specific sites objectively. And after looking at the specifics of Davenhall’s examples, session co-panelist Brad Christiansen of Colliers International was surprised. “It’s very interesting to see how the demographics evolve even in a short period of time,” he said, “even just two to three years.”

There was plenty more worth discussing, and I’m sure we will in future articles and blogs. If you missed the Portland event, there’s one more Healthcare Design Academy scheduled in 2014, in Dallas, August 7-8. For more information, go to HCDAcademy.com.