Over the years, people have repeatedly shared with me that the one issue of Healthcare Design  they keep on their shelves from year to year, and refer back to on a regular basis, is the annual Healthcare Design Showcase issue (published in September).

Serving as a yearbook of sorts for our industry, the Showcase is the one place you can find some of the most innovative projects of the year. Flipping through the pages gives insight into what peers are doing and where the industry as a whole is moving. And it provides a retrospective, too—an equivalent to the height marks your parents made on doorjambs to record your growth. If you were to gather every one of the 14 Showcase issues and flip through them one by one, you’d literally be able to watch our industry grow and mature before your eyes. 

You would be able to track trends, aesthetic choices, and even the changes in models of care. Want to know when single patient rooms became the norm? It’s documented in photography on the pages of a past issue. You can see when the industry was focused on remodeling existing space versus when it concentrated on building new facilities. And you can trace trends in product design, too: See when the first convertible sleeper sofa showed up on the scene, or how choices have fluctuated between carpet and hard-surface flooring. Watch as patient room windows got larger in response to research correlating views of nature and natural light to improved patient outcomes.

You’ll also see the changes to and the impact of technology on facility design. Witness the merging of radiology and surgery with the introduction of the interventional radiology suite.  See computers shrink over the years from large units in patient rooms to workstations on wheels  to today’s handheld tablets. Nurses’ stations, too, have evolved, from centralized hubs to distributed sites located near patient rooms to a hybrid model that capitalizes on the benefits of both.

Though these Showcase issues are a wonderful celebration of our industry’s progress and triumphs, they also contain our history.  As architecture and design firms as well as hospitals and health systems continue to merge to combine strengths or close their doors due to challenging economic times, their once individual presence is still captured on the pages of these issues.

While our country struggles to define what the future holds for our healthcare system, it will be interesting to see what hints exist in this very issue to solutions that haven’t yet crystallized. It’s likely that we’re already seeing the start of new design trends, such as the move from large acute care facilities to more distributed ambulatory care spaces located throughout the community; the growth in adaptive reuse of spaces as systems repurpose retail, educational, and commercial properties to support healthcare needs;  and the trend toward wellness facilities that engage and encourage behaviors that support healthy lifestyles and long-term health.

Future issues might highlight the design of health modules that connect with the modern home, bringing healthcare services to the residential setting and alleviating the need for the number of acute care beds and doctors’ offices that we see today. It may not be as far off as it once seemed.

We have a lot to be proud of as a community. Healthcare is reshaping itself before our eyes, and the design communities continue to meet the challenge that this shift presents. Partnering with clients to create solutions based in research, facility designers are creating care spaces that support the triple aim of the best possible outcomes delivered in the most cost-effective way, all to improve the patient experience.

For more Healthcare Design Showcase coverage, see the following: