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.

Deb Sheehan is executive director, client strategies leader, at CannonDesign (Chicago). Here, she shares her thoughts on wearable technology, the OR of the future, and the importance of well-designed staff spaces.

1. Renewed focus on employee spaces

The need to design healthcare spaces that create incredible patient experiences has accelerated at a seemingly faster rate than the need to create incredible staff experiences. But, now more organizations are redirecting their attention to designing staff spaces. For example, Southwest General Health Center’s new Pandrangi Tower in Middleburg Heights, Ohio, offers open-air balconies on all floors so employees can step outside for fresh air and sunlight throughout the day. The University of Minnesota Health’s Clinics & Surgery Center in Minneapolis features a multistory staff lounge with an atrium, cafeteria, meeting space, and access to natural daylight. This renewed focus is inspiring and impacting healthcare spaces across the country.

2. What are you wearing?

Emerging generations are more inclined to use wearable health technology than ever. While this is driving the use of Fitbits and smartwatches, it’s also leading to advancements like disposable otoscopes that allow parents to utilize FaceTime-like technology to send images of a child’s ear to a physician to diagnose an ear infection. These breakthroughs are incredible, but we’re just in the infancy of understanding wearable health technology’s impact on patients and providers.

3. Partnerships are critical

As health systems ramp up their efforts in supporting population health goals, partnerships with complementary organizations are becoming top of mind. To achieve clinically-integrated networks, health organizations are pairing up with businesses that can help grow their service lines or expand their regional reach, such as with skilled nursing or assisted care communities and community organizations. In our discussions with clients, we’ve heard of children’s hospitals seeking partners with unique services that allow them to become more involved in lower-level acuity activities, giving them greater access to a larger population. As this focus appears here to stay, organizations need to be strategic in executing these partnerships.

4. Learning from retail

Healthcare systems are looking for new ideas and thoughtful solutions that help them do more with less without sacrificing patient experience and quality. We’re seeing organizations find answers to these challenges in industries not traditionally associated with healthcare. For example, University of Minnesota Health’s new Clinics & Surgery Center was inspired by Apple stores and features no formal check-in or check-out areas. Instead patients are greeted by staff members with mobile devices, which are used for registration, filling out health forms, finding exam rooms, and scheduling future visits. It’s one of several changes that is helping Minnesota Health accommodate twice as many patients with significantly less real estate than its previous facility.

5. Designing the OR of the future

In trauma care, great importance is placed on the first hour of emergency medical treatment when swift care is most critical to survival. To make its emergency care delivery as efficient and effective as possible, Cedars Sinai developed its OR 360, a simulation lab and operating room where doctors and researchers are testing and retesting new ideas and best practices. The OR draws on techniques and ideas from theater design to create a highly adaptive space that can be easily reconfigured with moveable ceiling equipment, moveable and demountable walls, and equipment that’s attached to ceiling tracks that pivot around surgical teams. These innovations are helping researchers explore multiple surgical scenarios and identify areas for improved efficiency and workflow. Cedars Sinai is already implementing findings from OR 360 in its live ORs and we’re seeing other health institutions adopt these design principles as well.

Deb Sheehan

Want to share your Top 5? Contact senior editor Anne DiNardo at for submission instructions.