Questioning The Trends
A busy travel schedule over the past month allowed me the opportunity to sit down with multiple groups of architects, designers, and providers in person. I love these conversations, because for whatever reason, the participants don’t seem to hold back (professional competitiveness be damned). And I always walk away with new insights, which sometimes call into question the concept of “trends.”
For example, from a roundtable discussion we put together before our first Healthcare Design CitySCENE event, which took place in Dallas, the assembled professionals had a lot to say about globalization, the promising moves to embrace wellness, and the myth that it’s all about ambulatory as far as the future of healthcare is concerned. On this last point, one provider said, “People keep saying, ‘No one’s adding beds.’ But that’s just not the case.”
Not only are plenty of bed towers going up in Texas (and Ohio, and many other areas), the participants agreed, but there are years’ worth of big renovation projects still on the table. “Hospitals were way behind in their facilities,” an architect reminded us. “And lots are just now catching up”—getting rid of double-loaded corridors, converting to single rooms, and more—as budgets are finally getting some breathing room to make it happen.
Meanwhile, in Chicago for the May jury meeting for the 2016 Healthcare Design Showcase competition, the judges spent a lot of time discussing the impressive batch of entries we’d all just scrutinized. Women’s and pediatric hospital projects showed up en masse, along with another sector: “Last year it was all about MOBs,” said one juror. “This year, it’s cancer centers.” Again, echoing the Dallas group’s conversation, the jury showed surprise over how many big-scale projects there were. (We’ll share more details about themes that emerged in the Healthcare Design Showcase issue in August.)
And just to bring this full circle, I’ll point to a feature I recently wrote on Merrifield Center in Fairfax, Va., which brought a number of its county-wide behavioral health services under one roof. This unique project combines everything from an alternative school for children to emergency care for high-risk individuals arriving in police custody. A big-footprint, centrally located behavioral healthcare facility serving a wide range of populations may sound like it’s going against the grain. But Fairfax County is ecstatic about Merrifield, and looking to replicate its format elsewhere in the region.
We’re all watching for trends, which are certainly important to identify as we strategize for the future. But it’s just as important to pull back from the broad view regularly, talking to individuals in the field and considering the unique needs and constraints of a specific region, or specialty, or health system. Do any of the recent trends you’re always hearing about make you shake your head in disagreement? I’d love to hear about it.