5 predictions on healthcare facility design in 2017


With healthcare construction spending projected to double in 2017 from $19.6 billion in 2016, according to Architect Magazine, there will be significant expansion, renovation and construction of new healthcare facilities in the upcoming year.

"2017 promises to be an interesting year for hospital and medical building design innovation," said Rod Booze, partner at E4H Environments for Health, in a statement. "We believe that across the country we'll see facility design changes that meet patients where they are. Trends like increasing numbers of rural microhospitals and the rise of the medical village have the potential to improve patient and provider satisfaction, economic efficiencies, and healthcare outcomes."

E4H, an architecture firm focused on the healthcare industry, released five predictions for healthcare facility design trends in 2017.

1. Microhospitals. These mini inpatient facilities are roughly 15,000 to 50,000 square feet with between five and 15 inpatient beds for observation and short stay use. Unlike urgent care facilities, which have become popular in recent years, microhospitals are full-service and open 24/7, offering emergency room, pharmacy, lab, radiology and even surgical services. This new type of healthcare facility has primarily been cropping up in urban and suburban metro areas across the southern as well as Midwestern part of the U.S., but the concept is beginning to spread to other areas, according to the report.

2. Modernization of the ED. Emergency departments have long been the go-to for patients who don't know where else to go for care, many of whom have non-acute medical conditions. As a result, bottlenecks commonly occur and patients often end up getting unnecessarily expensive treatment. With the majority of emergency physicians indicating they expect emergency visits to rise over the next three years, many hospitals will reconfigure their EDs to provide more immediate access to alternative care in appropriate settings, according to the report. The year 2017 will likely see more designs for "rapid treatment" areas in which patients can be immediately moved and held, and in many cases diagnosed, treated and discharged without ever entering the main ED. Other design improvements will create efficient triage areas, semi-enclosed seating pods and departmental layouts that separate low-acuity patients from those in need of more acute care.

3. Infection control. E4H partners predict an intensification of the development and application of innovations in structural and interior space design, and related technologies and materials, intended to reduce the spread of infections in hospitals. Design innovations that will be in wider use include adapting single patient rooms' bathroom showers to include offset drains and sloping sides to minimize the spread of infection and contamination; using specialized light fixtures that have high-intensity, visible, indigo-colored light, which kill bacteria but do not harm human cells; and the use of infection-resistant materials, such as copper alloy surfaces, on which certain microbes die within one or two hours, according to the report.

4. The medical village. Medical villages are a treatment model stemming from the traditional medical office building. They include a large central family medicine practice and are surrounded by selected specialists that agree to offer patient access and share improvement processes, outcomes and data for quality patient care. The medical village model offers an increasing range of services on an outpatient basis, including some surgical and invasive procedures that only require an overnight stay, according to the report.

5. Behavioral health. An increasingly acute patient population entering inpatient psychiatric facilities and a growing emphasis on mitigating risk of patient and employee harm has spurred existing facilities to pursue upgrades to become safer for patients and staff. Some safety systems and products that are currently being advanced include top of door alarm systems with both visual and audible signals; interior polycarbonate security windows that are required to satisfy impact standards; and securing of furniture to walls and floors. Other trends include the incorporation of open nursing stations resembling hotel check-in reception areas and more patient control of their immediate environment with dimmable lighting systems, patient adjustable environmental control systems, and both air systems and water provisions in bathrooms. 

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