“This is an exciting time for our industry. We might be facing some of our most demanding challenges, but we are also in a time of unprecedented growth in the construction of new building projects and of building renovations and remodels.”
These were the opening words when I penned my first column 22 years ago for the newly launched Healthcare Design magazine. They are as relevant today as they were more than two decades ago. At that time, current spending on healthcare construction was $17 billion a year and was expected to increase to $27 billion annually in the next decade.
This year, according to a report from the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, healthcare construction spending is estimated to reach more than $62 billion and continue to increase over the next five years.
Increasing demand for healthcare services and an aging population will continue to drive new construction for the foreseeable future, especially for new outpatient clinics. At the same time, the added financial pressures of higher interest rates, increased cost of materials and labor, and the lingering effects of a global pandemic mean that available funding to pay for that construction will lag behind demand.
Project scope grows as budgets shrink
The scale and scope of projects are not changing, but the budgets to build them are growing smaller. Our industry increasingly will be asked to squeeze every ounce of value from every dollar spent. The challenge will be not losing the inroads in patient experience, staff and family support spaces, and overall safety made in the last two decades.
At the same time, the projects being designed today must be flexible enough to accommodate the inevitable changes in healthcare delivery over the coming years due to new models of care and increased reliance on new technologies.
We know that the physical environment can be a catalyst for positive change, addressing some of the most pressing challenges that our healthcare system faces today, and can contribute to better patient outcomes, happier and healthier healthcare workers, and even a healthier planet.
Closing the loop on healthcare design and outcomes
In support of this, The Center for Health Design plans to focus additional energy on closing the loop around research that draws the connection between facility design and outcomes in healthcare.
Our goal is to continue to strengthen the business case around evidence-based design investments; fostering improvements in the collection, analysis, and sharing of outcomes data; and creating powerful designer-provider networks of change so that we can achieve next-generation advances in care.
It’s been a pleasure to be in dialogue with our industry through the words on this page over the years. I’ve appreciated the many emails sharing your thoughts and the support and encouragement you’ve shown for The Center’s work. I look forward to continuing that dialogue as The Center sets the agenda for the next decade of our work.
Debra Levin is president and CEO of The Center for Health Design. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.