The 12th annual Healthcare Design Conference officially kicked off yesterday, with workshops, networking receptions, and on-site tours of recent healthcare projects in and around our host city of San Diego. And today, we dive into the educational sessions in earnest, with 55 individual sessions to choose from plus an awards ceremony luncheon, an invigorating keynote presentation from artist and entrepreneur Erik Wahl, and our welcome reception in the Exhibit Hall.

So we’re off to a great start: This year’s conference welcomes thousands of people, hundreds of exhibitors, and all kinds of new opportunities to engage with peers and hear the latest on where we stand as an industry. And where is that, exactly? What we at Healthcare Design have seen this year is a largely inward-focused perspective when it comes to the design and flow of healthcare spaces, whether they’re giant hospitals or small clinics. We’ve seen an overriding need to streamline the way care is delivered, focusing both on operations and a more patient-centered approach. For the design or redesign of the spaces where care happens, that’s meant more Lean thinking, more input from clinicians and facilities staff on process, and, overall, a laser-beam focus on efficiency of space and smart, cost-effective planning.

The whole spectrum of healthcare projects happening today—whether it’s these more inward-looking transformations or splashy, grand architectural statements—is represented in the Healthcare Design Conference program.  And they all have extraordinary lessons to impart.

We in the healthcare design industry have much work to do, and while we’re all tightening our belts and getting our own houses in order, the next phase, which will demand innovative thinking and new design solutions to meet patient needs and adapt to technological advances, is breathing down our necks. Let’s use this conference to usher in that next phase, and ask the hard questions of our speakers and of one another on where we go from here.