With the recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling upholding the Affordable Care Act, the healthcare industry is set for change. I was recently talking with HGA colleague and healthcare planning principal Hal Henderson about how he views designers’ role in the evolving healthcare environment. 

“Innovation in healthcare is possibly one of the greatest challenges we face today,” Henderson noted. “Our society will face increasing needs for invention as we encounter the perfect storm of healthcare challenges—baby boomers reaching retirement age as healthcare reform, advanced technology, new research and better delivery methods improve lifestyles and extend life expectancy.”

The typical healthcare facility—both old and new—will be reconfigured to meet the challenges of increased patient volume and multiple healthcare delivery models. Cost will be a primary factor driving the change, encouraging healthcare administrators, caregivers and designers to consider the most efficient way to deliver that care.

“Care models are changing so the tools to deliver that care will change,” Henderson continued. “Buildings are simply a tool that supports a need. But unlike other tools, a building can provide much more. A building can express quality, brand and image, as well as support operational efficiencies. Simply said, a building can impact more business needs than any other component of healthcare delivery.”

Designers and architects bring a great deal of knowledge and expertise to the healthcare conversation. But innovation is a process of ongoing dialogue and research—in which healthcare organizations, caregivers, patients, community members and designers share ideas. Rather than rely on rote solutions that worked in the past, designers are transforming this collective dialogue into new solutions that achieve better outcomes.

The opportunities for healthcare innovations expand daily. Our job as designers is to convert the current care model into a holistic, lifelong care strategy.