SmithGroup Survey Forecasts Future of Healthcare Design

By Eric Althoff

DETROIT-Integrated design firm SmithGroup has released the results of a nationwide survey conducted by the company aimed at uncovering the trends and challenges facing the design and healthcare industry for the still-young year-and the forthcoming decade. The survey was sent out to over a thousand design professionals to get their feedback on where they see the design-build industry proceeding in the healthcare sector.

Accessibility was one of the key buzzwords the SmithGroup surveyors uncovered in their research, and they report it will play a crucial part in the healthcare market in the years ahead, with hospitals not only offering care but also effectively becoming a locus for the communities they serve.

One survey respondent, architect Johnny Wong of San Francisco, believes that healthcare systems will be updated to offer “holistic well-being in the community,” which he says will likely be accomplished by investing in items beyond the healthcare sphere itself, such as public greenspaces and being more proactive about getting students involved in courses that are stepping stones to a healthcare career. It might be helpful to have a site that guides people to find these courses, like this site in Australia.

This investment must also extend to healthcare workers themselves. SmithGroup’s report cited a statistic from the Mayo Clinic that found over 40 percent of physicians were facing burnout fatigue, and 70 percent of nurses reported something similar. Ergo, it will incumbent upon healthcare design firms to create spaces not only for maximal efficiency of care given by professionals to patients, but also incorporating rest areas so that healthcare workers themselves can recharge during the course of their shifts.

“We’ll see more exercise facilities, healthy meal service, outdoor exercise options and garden spaces,” said Kendra Kettelhut, an interior designer in Los Angeles. Furthermore, having areas for healthcare workers to congregate during work breaks will allow healthcare employers to “attract and retain top talent.” This plan will not only keep healthcare workers healthier but also translate into better expected outcomes for patients they care for.

The value of virtual care has become a hot topic of late, not the least because of the coronavirus outbreak, now officially classified as a pandemic by the World Health Organization. SmithGroup reported that other 21st century technology that will likely expand in the foreseeable future includes wearable sensors that direct patients when to seek medical attention, schedule medical visits and even offer assistance on a route to take to a clinical setting.

“As the advancements in personal technologies continue to accelerate and become ever-more woven into day-to-day life, expectations for technologically connected and intuitive medical facilities will rise,” health studio leader Cindy Beckham, based in Washington, D.C., said in her response to the survey.

“Design can help drive a future of building healthier communities where equitable access to care helps everyone to thrive,” Chicago architect Karthik Ramadurai added in his own response.