1. Why is flexibility such a major component of new healthcare facilities?
The science of medicine and treatment of patients is an ever evolving discipline. In the past, medical knowledge progression as well as advances in clinical technology drove the need for flexibility in a care facility. Today, we need to add the factors of a changing market environment, regulatory requirements, and shifting demographics in both patient and staff population into our design consideration of healthcare facilities. It is true that Change is the Only Constant in a healthcare facility. And the pace of change in healthcare delivery and design is accelerating.
A healthcare facility is one of the most costly to build, and renovation or expansion projects can potentially cause the interruption of facility operations, Interruptions from environmental concerns, to shutting down on-going operation to accommodate construction works could have critical consequences.
Built-in flexibility in healthcare facility design can minimize the need for modification due to changes in technology, market, regulation, or demographics, and if additional construction activities are required, built-in flexibility can reduce its potential impact to the ongoing operation.
2. What are some of the latest societal trends informing health facility design? Is it regulatory changes? Cultural changes? Medical changes?
I think you might say all of the above and then some. From my point of view, the digital revolution has fundamentally changed how we live our lives. Healthcare is a segment of life that has received its fair share of impact from this digital revolution. The biggest impact, from my point of view, is the way in which information technology has altered our perception of our surrounding, our behavior pattern towards others and our environment, and changed our expectations. We are experiencing an unprecedented information explosion and we have only just begun to define our strategy forward.
Here are a few key societal trends I believe that have great impact in healthcare: a trend in shifting medicine from episodic care to wellness management, from individual disease treatment toward population health, aided by big data; the gradual acceptance of disease, health, and healthcare as normal process of human life, not stigmatized; and a trend in globalization of health maintenance, disease prevention, and medical knowledge development.
3. Can you share a recent healthcare project that you’re excited to have worked on?
I am proud to share with you the Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center New James Cancer Center and Solove Research Institute. This new cancer center is one of the largest projects in the history of OSU, and one of the largest, most comprehensive cancer centers in the country and in the world. The unique quality of this project includes a totally integrated approach, with research and medical education embedded in the clinical setting. The exterior and interior design reflects the James Cancer Center philosophy. The building interior states experiencing cancer and cancer care is part of life process, with space proportion, material selection, and color choices that convey human dignity. The exterior, with its soaring height, stands taller than any other building in the campus and serves as landmark for the community.
Part of the engineering achievement is a seven vault radiation oncology unit that is located on the third floor (Level 2) of the building and not in the traditional basement location. This engineering feat provides access to natural light to patients, again, treating the patients with respect and dignity. The fact that this floating radiation oncology unit was placed in after the construction had started is a total engineering story on its own.
4. What are some strategies you’ve found successful to limit the potentially high costs of new projects?
I believe the key to achieve the highest efficiency in any healthcare project is through a total and vertical integration. A comprehensive project planning process starts with a clear understanding the inter-relationship of all key healthcare project components, from clinical technology, construction process, operational efficiency, digital simulation, energy performance, to ultimate clinical knowledge development. The traditional value engineering process focuses on cost cutting and quality compromise. The vertical inter-relationship thinking framework seeks a win-win solution by advancing one area of the project to achieve saving in other areas, e.g. using more new (advanced) clinical technology to improve throughput and outcome quality in a smaller building area (saving). At the same time the new clinical technology could also lead to stronger market presence.
5. Broadly speaking, what does the healthcare facility of the future look like to you?
As an architect who has spent a significant portion of my career designing hospitals, I think it is about time to let go the hospital building type, and replace it with a healthcare building type. The new healthcare building should be of civic presence, a pleasant place to be, and a good neighbor in the community, a safe, clean, forward looking spirit that the community is eager to be part of, not shy away from. The new healthcare facility is like a library full of knowledge and resources, like a school full of learning opportunities, like playground where recreation leads to health, like a civic center where we can exercise our r right to health , and like a community center where we come to understand that our individual health is linked to others in the community, and to our environment.