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

Ray A. Wong, healthcare market leader Baker Barrios Architects (Tampa, Fla.), shares his thoughts on emerging market disruptors that should be on healthcare design firms’ radars.

  1. The overlooked consumer segment

The conversation surrounding the aging population has grown significantly over the past 18 months, as we battled to keep one of our nation’s most sensitive demographics healthy and safe. Funding for COVID-related clinical care was understandably prioritized on aging baby boomers while we simultaneously championed convenience and virtual-care for millennials. But at what cost to this younger demographic? Prioritizing convenience and virtual-care, over the traditional patient-doctor experience, risks underestimating the extent to which in-person care can positively impact diagnosis, intervention and, ultimately, outcomes. Healthcare designers have the opportunity to step back and reflect on how the upcoming tsunami of chronic conditions, detected at later and more acute stages, will impact hospitals as we know them. The industry is uniquely posited to help mitigate this through design that brings together the best the future has to offer in the form of architecture, technology, systems, research, best practices, and artificial intelligence.

  1. Nontraditional market disruptors

Pandemic-driven changes in behavior, especially those that focused on avoidance of COVID-19 exposure, have fueled an unprecedented growth of healthcare market disruptors like real-time analytics, tech-enabled retail (i.e., Amazon), big tech disruption (i.e., Google) and virtual diagnostic platforms. Virtual care, for example, though long established, has only recently moved into the lexicon of the average American. These changes have been widely embraced, but more importantly, strongly signal that they’re here to stay. Healthcare designers will need to broaden their familiarity and understanding of nontraditional healthcare disruptors to appreciate their impact on long-established healthcare design archetypes. Home-based care opportunities, virtual care, digital pharmacies, remote diagnostics, and digital therapeutic approaches will provide opportunities for healthcare design to reimagine the future of the typical care delivery space.

  1. Support for value-based treatment models

A future of continuously escalating healthcare costs is untenable. What was once considered a utopian vision, aligning outcomes in relation to the cost of care, has become the de rigueur model through which healthcare cost can be controlled. Capitation, accountable care organizations, pay-for-performance, and value-based purchasing are value-based payment models that have shown cost reduction benefits beyond the outmoded fee-for-service model. Healthcare design will increasingly need to channel its expertise to support healthcare systems’ cost reduction efforts through data-driven and evidence-based design that supports patient satisfaction efforts, improves care outcomes, leads to a reduction in length-of-stay, and supports employee morale and staff efficiency. In short, traditional design considerations such as daylighting, materials that support noise mitigation strategies, and color palette selection will transition from being seen as purely aesthetic considerations to realistic revenue-generating design opportunities.

  1. Market shifts

Many of the factors driving growth toward the outpatient market appear to be the same factors leading to contracting volumes on the inpatient side. For example, changing volumes in cardiology and orthopedic services service lines are inversely related, leading to growth on the outpatient side that’s of similar magnitude as the counterpart volume reduction on the inpatient side. Extrapolating the significance and implications of these healthcare trends will depend largely on the ability of the healthcare design industry to grow its base of expertise to include the same business, marketing, and regulatory considerations framing day-to-day conversations with clients. In short, the industry will need to embrace its increasingly expanding role as partners and trusted advisors to healthcare systems looking to understand what these changes mean to their capital improvement budgets, the manner in which projects will be funded, and their growing healthcare real estate portfolios.

  1. Medicaid reimbursement

Medicaid’s most recent explosion in growth will undoubtedly have implications that reach well beyond the delivery-of-care continuum and into the pragmatic constraints imposed by the operations side of the business of delivering care. Complicating matters is the real potential for these most recent Medicaid numbers to change dramatically again, once we fully overcome the current public health emergency. But why should healthcare design be concerned? Simply put, regulatory considerations, especially those affecting our clients’ bottom lines, have a strong trickle-down effect for all industries associated with the healthcare sector. The same lifeline that protects those who would otherwise go uninsured also helps protect healthcare systems and all those associated with the healthcare industry, including architects and designers. The relationship is real, and it has far-reaching implications for all those involved.


Want to share your Top 5? Contact Managing Editor Tracey Walker at for submission instructions.