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.

Tim Spence is the national healing market leader at BSA LifeStructures (Raleigh, N.C.). Here, he shares his thoughts on adapting to a data-rich industry, the importance of designing for staff, and the future of healing design.

  1. Designers shape the future

If the entire collection of medical knowledge in the world is expected to double every 73 days by 2020, it’s safe to say that healthcare will look very different soon. With an era of unprecedented change enters the emergence of designer as the professional best poised to shape the future based on integrating and interpreting large, diverse streams of information. Designers are trained problem solvers, but we need to expand on these skills in response to an increasingly data-rich world, actively seeking out new problems, new information, and new dilemmas.

  1. Healthcare integrates with us

Much has been written about how younger patients and professionals in the healthcare system view technology like an additional appendage. In the same way, healthcare is moving from a place we occasionally visit to a perpetual extension of us. Care is migrating from the hospital to ambulatory care to virtual care to literally a part of us. Like integral technology, the places we receive care are integrating more successfully into the fabric of our cities, our routines, and, therefore, our daily lives.

  1. Follow the money

Ironically, economics is the lead character in the grand transformation that’s driving the sea change in healthcare. The future is uncertain with high-overhead systems facing reduced reimbursement. The greatest service we can render to our clients is to build operationally efficient, right-sized environments with flexibility for future growth. Overbuilding results in wasted capital costs, ongoing financial operational costs, and taxes the finite resources of our planet. Data-driven design is the key to operational efficiency while energy-saving measures provide the vehicle to measurable cost savings.

  1. Happy staff equals happy patient

Our propensity to let machines like modern HVAC systems solve all problems leads to such criminal acts as some hospital workers spending their careers in the basement. The industry took a decisive step forward when the triple aim evolved into the quadruple aim with the addition of care team well-being, which supports health equity between the care provider and the patient and creating a sustainable work force. As performance metrics ramp up for healthcare providers, our charge as design professionals is creating environments designed for performance. In many cases, how the provider feels about their environment transfers directly to the patient.

  1. Healing happens at the nexus of public health and medicine

The legacy of the green movement is reconnecting public health with medicine to force a paradigm shift from treatment to prevention. We need to push beyond the idea that healing is synonymous with healthy buildings to see our work in the context of a web of interconnected relationships that impacts all systems. In other words, our site and its impact doesn’t end at the property line but extends to all networks that are connected to it. If this is true, creating a healing environment leads to the formation of healing communities and extends to securing a healthy planet, our ultimate calling as healing designers.

Want to share your Top 5? Contact executive editor Anne DiNardo at for submission instructions.