Healthcare facilities can quickly become obsolete unless they’re designed for flexibility and adaptability. Evolving healthcare services and delivery methods are affecting facility utilization and prompting the need to quickly answer those changes. To get the most from an investment, clinics must be planned to address this constant cycle of change.

While the concepts of flexibility and adaptability may sound similar, they reflect different approaches to planning that can bring real cost benefits to owners.

Flexible buildings easily change to meet imme­diate, short-term needs such as transforming consultation rooms into group education space by moving demountable internal walls. Flexibility in existing clinic buildings groups like experiences and activities together, with universal spaces designed to flex according to needs.

Adaptable buildings accommodate long-term changes such as converting a medical office building into an ambulatory care facility or designing a new enclosed building space.

Trends impacting flexibility and adaptability include economic, legislative, demographic, and cultural factors as well as advances in medical technology and communications technology.

Here are four options to consider when planning for flexibility and adaptability:

  • Consider your short-, mid-, and long-term goals.
  • Understand your demographics.
  • Know the type of services and the care model you want to provide.
  • Standardize as many aspects of a facility as possible.

Planning for an unknown future is challenging. While it’s clear that healthcare industry changes will accelerate, no one knows what the end plan will look like—and no one knows how the ramifications will impact clinic design. Flexibility and adaptability allow you to address that unknown and provide better patient service.

For more on this topic, see “The New Gold Standard” in the October issue of Healthcare Design.