In this series, Healthcare Design magazine asks leading healthcare design professionals, firms, and owners to tell us what’s got their attention and share some ideas on the subject.

Here, Gary Vance, national director of healthcare at BSA LifeStructures (Indianapolis), shares his thoughts on current trends in the healthcare industry and how they relate to the planning and design of future facilities.

1.  Strategic plans: “They’re not what they use to be”

Our role as planning experts used to be much more guided when hospitals had specific strategic plans. Today, we are finding that many hospitals are in a holding pattern until they determine what will happen with the changes brought about by the Affordable Care Act. As a result, healthcare planners are using an approach that identifies inpatient, outpatient, clinical, and logistical functions that specify goals for re-invented healthcare processes. What is missing, however, is the over-arching strategy which typically guides the master planning process.

2. Collaborating across markets: “What took us so long?”

Healthcare competitors are much more willing to collaborate in today’s healthcare environment. We’ve done planning for a number of medical districts that are positioning themselves for the future by combining their resources. These medical districts can accommodate research centers, wellness facilities, parks, roads, and even adjacent neighborhoods. This collaboration is done in an effort to weave healthcare into the fabric of the community and put an emphasis on wellness to keep patients as healthy as possible.

3. Reading lessons: “What’s old is new again”

I’ve reenergized my approach to the practice of architecture, client relationships, and projects by exploring the readings of a giant in the evolution of architecture, Bill Caudill, of CRS Architects. Caudill shared his insights on design, relationships and life in general through a series of memos he called “This I Believe” (TIB). These memos, written from 1964 to 1983, can easily be applied to many of the industry’s present-day challenges. Check out some of his TIBs.

4. Here come the boomers: “Designing for a new patient profile”

Healthcare planners and designers need to recognize that the aging baby boomer population represents a new patient profile that requires specific design considerations. Newly designed healthcare spaces should emphasize access, wayfinding, and parking to accommodate this aging patient population. Designers should also keep in mind that this generation of patients is knowledgeable and knows how to ask questions and challenge healthcare providers, and expects choices in treatment and care.

5. Technology’s role in the patient experience: “Are we moving fast enough?”

In general, the healthcare industry has been slow to adopt consumer technologies that can benefit the patient experience in a positive way. The check-in, arrival, and departure process can benefit from using mobile and self check-in technology. In the rapidly changing accountable care environment, the challenge for healthcare planners and designers is to stay ahead of technology and care models to plan and design spaces that respond to patient and visitor needs.

Gary Vance

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