The Health Care Institute (HCI) Chicago Chapter recently hosted its Spring Quarterly Event, titled Upcoming Trends in Healthcare from Key Women in the Industry. I had the pleasure of serving as a panelist, sharing the stage with three of the most well-respected leaders in healthcare design in Chicago — Victoria Navarro of Advocate Health Care, Julie Ford of CBRE, and Jenny Han of Skender Construction, who also facilitated. Here are some key takeaways from the discussion:
The architecture industry has some catching up to do in terms of seamlessly integrating technology into our design processes for developing experiences for patients and staff. Traditionally, firms have lacked the expertise to specifically focus on future scaping and developing roadmaps for the technology aspects of experience, meaning it became an add-on for projects — often not well coordinated with the resultant outcome.
While today we can leverage visioning, modeling and simulation tools to ensure technology and design are connected in our designs, these do not take into account the fundamental road mapping necessary at the beginning of a project. The planning of the environment, operations and technology all have to occur simultaneously and use a unified approach to truly develop meaningful and purposeful experiences that align stakeholders’ needs, optimize infrastructure performance, and provide flexibility for the future.
On Drivers of Innovation
The AEC industry should be drawing inspiration from our health clients as drivers of innovation and adopting similar models to those successfully employed by the health industry. One of my favorite examples is the Kaiser Permanente Sidney R. Garfield Health Care Innovation Center, a living lab that has generated hundreds of projects since its inception in 2005. Center director Jennifer Liebermann describes the Garfield Innovation Center as “a place where we push people to think about the future and test their ideas in a safe environment.”
Collaborative partnerships between Academic Medical Centers and outside industries have proven to be another successful vehicle for acceleration of innovation. Fast-track breakthroughs in medical technology have evolved from these transformational partnerships – including Pfizer’s Centers for Therapeutic Innovation (CTI) and The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center’s Moon Shoots Program — allowing the brightest minds in medicine, science and research to work side by side and generate new ideas together.
On Mergers and Acquisitions
While health systems’ mergers and acquisitions are intended to counteract and reduce the cost of healthcare, it is taking a hard toll on the architecture industry, fundamentally because M&As result in fewer clients to compete for. With fewer hospital systems out there for us to work with, we need to think more creatively about how our expertise and services can better serve our clients.
Compounding the pressures from M&As is the rise in design-assist and design-build. This project delivery approach moves many of the traditional architectural services during construction documents and construction contract administration to the contractors and subcontractors, reducing our contribution to the final product. With our downstream services becoming less frequent, we need to establish our relevancy upstream and demonstrate how our specific skillset as designers is valuable beyond only the build environment.
It’s no secret that architecture is at a crossroads. And not only in the healthcare market, but across the entire industry. Now more than ever, our training and expertise as problem solvers and creative thinkers is needed to help us bridge the gaps between our industry partners — to redefine the role of the architect. A value-driven environment in healthcare should not inhibit transformation and design excellence; it’s just forcing us to use our unique skillsets of creative problem solving in new and even better ways.