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.

Channing McLeod is principal in the healthcare practice at TVS (Atlanta). Here he shares his thoughts on the supply chain, sustainability, and clinical versus nonclinical spaces.

  1. Cooperative competition

Collaboration among health systems is gaining in popularity, as is the extension of clinical spaces into retail spaces. Consider the new health clinics inside CVS and Walmart. What’s driving these partnerships? A need to make care more accessible, which is a good thing and a good business model for those retail settings. Health systems are partnering to deliver the highest quality patient care through shared expertise and best practices.

For example, rural hospitals are able to bring in specific medical expertise not available within their own health system to treat a patient with an uncommon, or difficult condition. While the lines are blurring between clinical and retail environments, we as designers must ensure the patient experience is front and center in every decision on these projects, from creating and maintaining patient privacy to the types of materials we select to provide appropriate settings for healthcare spaces. These materials can impact the noise and light levels within a space, its ease of maintenance and cleaning, and can help patients feel more comfortable in a potentially difficult setting.

  1. Future-proofing

Anticipating changes in technology and understanding the long-term needs of a facility are some of the drivers of flexible design. Planning for future will help eliminate design challenges later for clients and reduces costs. For example, for clients anticipating increased intensive care unit (ICU) demand in the future, we’re designing lower acuity rooms with the spatial requirements for the ICU rooms of the future. Systems such as headwalls that can be built in modules allow for future flexibility and adaptation to increased demands.

  1. Supply chain philosophy

Current supply chain issues are impacting the design selection and purchase of architectural materials such as flooring, wall protection and solid surfaces. We have observed some clients creating supplier partnerships to accommodate bulk purchases and storage to facilitate planned work that hasn’t started yet. Other hospitals are starting to move away from a “just in time” delivery model for healthcare supplies and back toward larger supply purchases and warehouse spaces to stockpile materials for future needs. On the design side, teams are having almost daily conversations with material vendors and manufacturers and making design recommendations based on availability. Clients are doing their best to get their projects designed and “bought out” as quickly as possible to meet schedules and budgets.

  1. Sustainability

The American Institute of Architects 2030 Commitment, an actionable climate strategy for reaching net zero emissions in the built environment, includes a variety of goals on sustainability and energy usage. While sustainable systems need to comply with strict hospital design safety criteria, acknowledge that hospitals consume a great deal of energy and resources. Health systems need to constantly be thinking about designing spaces that are more considerate of their environmental impact and can make simple design decisions such as incorporating solar panels on top of parking decks to generate electricity for the facility or using a water recycling system that cleans wastewater for future non-potable uses.

  1. Clinical versus non-clinical spaces

There’s been a drive to push any functional spaces, such as medical records, billing, or scheduling, out of the hospital building. Functions like these can be accommodated less expensively in adjacent, non-clinical spaces. The move also frees up space within the hospital for more patient care services. Collaboration with owners on these types of operational decisions is the key to validating or modifying their master planning to ensure it’s in line with their long-term needs.

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