“Reflections” is a new column featuring thoughts and commentary by former HEALTHCARE DESIGN Editor-in-Chief Richard L. Peck.

Now aged 68 and semi-retired, I’ve gone through many “revolutions” in my lifetime. I have memories of writing news stories on manual typewriters, without an electrical outlet in sight. Then came electric typewriters, followed by the very first personal computers (my beloved Mac Classic looking like a loaf of bread stood upright), then faster and bigger PCs, the Internet, Google, laptops, the Amazon Kindle, iPhones-each and every one a game changer in my life.

And the pace of that change has been amazing. Just the other day my 28-year-old daughter was reminiscing about her life pre-Internet! And with each iteration of new technologies, it becomes impossible to envision going back to the “old” ones.

I see this happening now in healthcare design. It’s not just Building Information Modeling (BIM), which seems to be gaining “must-have” status among AEC firms these days. BIM in itself, of course, is transforming the design and construction process-the Holy Grail of project teamwork starting from Day One, with all the implications this has for cost-saving efficiencies, is becoming increasingly within reach.

But beyond BIM are the technologies employing mobile devices-laptops, tablets, and even smart phones-that are changing the construction process. I’m doing an article on one such system right now for sister publication Healthcare Building Ideas, which spells out how tablet computers are allowing contractors and subcontractors to execute projects logically and systematically, while walking around and communicating in real time. Sometimes, in fact, the “communicators” are thousands of miles apart!

Now, don’t get me wrong-I’m not a blind worshiper of “progress,” quotation marks emphasized. Sometimes, in viewing these technologies, I’m reminded of the days when Macs and PCs didn’t get along very well-all the headaches and heartaches their integration required in my own field of publishing. With BIM, for instance, I believe from comments I’ve heard in the field that there is still some way to go to get all parties on board, both among firms and even within firms. Some folks are taking longer than others to “get with the program.” New-tech does not, after all, promise to solve all problems of organizational management or human behavior.

But the advances are truly jaw-dropping and their potential seemingly limitless. As much as we may have retrogressed in some fields (e.g., domestic and international politics, in my view), technology has never let us down in keeping life stimulating, intriguing, and ultimately satisfying. HD

Healthcare Design 2010 March;10(3):80