As 2014 approaches, The Center for Health Design (CHD) is preparing to move into the last year of our five-year strategic plan and start laying groundwork for the next.

Over the last few months, we’ve been engaging in conversations with industry experts, colleagues, healthcare futurists, trusted advisers, and members of various CHD programs, among others, to try and understand what the industry might need from us five years from now. The knowledge gathered through this process will help us to create unique, new, and innovative business opportunities for the healthcare design profession.

Anyone who has ever been involved in creating a mid- or long-term strategic plan can relate to the excitement of the blank canvas, which is immediately followed by the realization that there’s no crystal ball to see the future clearly enough to be 100 percent certain that you’ll be in the right place at the right time with the right products or information.

We’ve made significant progress with our current strategic plan, especially in light of the economic changes and turbulent climate for healthcare since the plan was created. The lens we looked through in 2008 was very different from the one we use today.

The building boom was just starting to slow down, the economy was just starting its free fall, and the Affordable Care Act hadn’t yet been signed into law. Much of the conversation around healthcare was geared toward innovative ways to manage volume rather than the current emphasis on value.

We’ve made significant progress in achieving our current strategic goals, which are to:

1. Leverage research to improve outcomes in healthcare environments—We’ve added to the body of research around evidence-based design with numerous white papers, research reports, and case studies.

2. Translate knowledge into tools and resources—We’ve launched numerous new tools, including checklists and specialized micro-websites (such as Clinic Design at, and made research more accessible and searchable with the launch last year of the Knowledge Repository. All of these resources were designed specifically to support the design and healthcare communities in their work and are available free of charge on The Center’s website (              

3. Foster innovation in the design of healthcare settings—Multiple Pebble members opened new hospitals, including Palomar Medical Center, Lurie Children’s Hospital, and Nemours Children’s Hospital, have all opened in the last 24 months, and the WellStar Paulding Hospital is planning to open in the spring.

4. Engage, lead, and serve our community— All of these things have been achieved through the efforts and energy of scores of volunteers and partnerships with numerous other associations, organizations, and foundations.

What’s next? That’s the million-dollar question for any organization. We’ve found a few key ideas that will shape our profession in the next decade and create new opportunities.

New profit centers
Health systems will continue to look for and expand profit centers outside of the traditional acute care setting, identifying innovative new ways to reach into the community and build loyalty. Health spas, nutrition centers, and wellness centers will be among these solutions and offer the design community an opportunity to create a new aesthetic to reflect this new dynamic.

Geriatric-focused spaces
In the same way that specialized pediatric environments became a norm to cater to the needs of infants and children, geriatric-focused environments are being designed with the special needs of seniors in mind, taking into account issues around safety and diagnoses most identified with an older and often frailer population.

HCAHPS scores
Organizations are paying more attention than ever to HCAHPS scores that not only measure patient satisfaction with a hospital experience but now directly impact reimbursement.

Scores on noise and cleanliness are influenced by perceptions of the built environment, but less obvious connections to the environment can be made, as well. For example, one hospital we interviewed saw a direct correlation between providing a chair for the physician to sit down and talk with patients and families and a significant increase in the doctor’s compassion scores.

These are just a few of the many insights and opportunities uncovered that we’ll use to develop goals for CHD moving into the future. We welcome your thoughts on what you anticipate being the hot topics over the next six years and how you’d like to see The Center support you in your work.