Flexible design isn’t a new phenomenon. Nor is flex- ibility in healthcare environments. But the velocity and scope of technological changes, shifting con- sumer demographics and value-placed health policy
has sparked a renewed interest in the concept of a flexible,
As clinical staff, facilities managers, administration and
design professionals engage in this dialogue, many are
asking questions: What exactly does flexibility mean? How
does the desire for flexibility influence design? And is flexibility
a real, meaningful advantage or a hollow promise?
Technological innovations will affect all aspects of care
from prevention, to diagnosis and treatment, and patients
and providers alike are keen to adopt many of these breakthroughs, seeking bet-
ter care quality and quality of life. But the physical plant of today – and the past
60 years - wasn’t designed to respond to constant iteration. Rather, longevity
was the key design criteria and for good reason: health facilities are an expensive
investment, both in time and financial capital.
While some future adjustment was expected, planning for the exponential pace
and scale of technological advance wasn’t a consideration. The Fourth Industrial
Revolution, characterized by artificial intelligence, the Internet of Things, robotics,
materials science, quantum computing, etc., is producing the need for operational, policy and regulatory revisions.
How does one successfully address what’s necessary today and anticipate
what might be required 10, 20 and even 50 years in the future? The bottom line is
that we can’t fully know how health will be delivered in the future, but healthcare
environments that are flexible will enable providers and systems to be more agile.
We aren’t suggesting that healthcare facilities will become obsolete, but we
have already seen a change in clinical operations. For example, the health
ecosystem has adjusted to the normalcy of outpatient surgery, and the list of
appropriate outpatient procedures is growing. Overall, the industry is seeing ➤
20 interiors+sources november2018 interiorsandsources.com
while the acuity
interiors | FIELD NOTES | By Michelle Ossmann, PhD, MSN, & Seth Starner, MDM | Images courtesy of Steelcase Health
NOW AND IN THE FUTURE
Investments—in buildings, spaces and furnishings—need to serve the needs of healthcare providers
long into the future. As a result, flexibility is a growing aspiration for facility design.