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Copyright Glenn Nagel |

I like to read, and I particularly enjoy reading about what is happening in the healthcare field both in this country and around the world. I learn and draw inspiration from the creative efforts of others as they tackle the challenges of their particular clients, and often it will be something I can directly apply to a design problem with my own clients. One recent article spoke about the need to look at other industries for inspiration (not a new concept), and very cleverly identified parallels with some large companies that we all know. It was compelling.

I’m drawn in.

The author continued to describe the challenges facing today’s healthcare organizations, from shrinking profit margins to new compensation models, to being driven to change in order to survive as an enterprise. Through the parallel industry examples given, the author argued that healthcare needs to:

  • Be price conscious. Start with what you can afford to spend and work backwards to what design solutions will solve the problem within that budget.
  • Offer faster transactions with a better experience. In healthcare terms, this means addressing flow and process to reduce waiting and overall time spent, so that more patients can receive care in the same amount of (or reduced) space.
  • Provide communal workspaces for physicians and other caregivers. Private offices have long been understood to be underutilized space, and today’s new doctors are more likely to want to work in a shared spatial environment than to separate into individual rooms.

At this point, I am completely on board with the thrust of the article. I agree with the definition of the problem, I agree with the strategy of looking outside of healthcare itself for ideas that might help address the problem, and I’m ready to see the way in which these ideas have been used to create innovative new solutions.

Really good points, but…

Now, I’m not naming any names (either architect or client) because it is not my intent to criticize another’s work. I don’t have all the facts and I only know what the brief article chose to convey. I may be missing something. But late in the article, the author described how in order to attract doctors to use the new collaborative work space, the architects designed it to be “three stories tall, all interconnected by atriums and stairs.”


This causes me to circle back to the “survival mode” that had been the initial premise of the article, and to wonder if there was a disconnect between designing for greater cost consciousness, leaner process, and reduced building space…and creating collaborative space for doctors that is three stories tall with an atrium. Or as I said, maybe I’m missing something here.

What do you think?


  1. Earl Wilson /Reply

    I, too was drawn into the conversation. It appears that the article may have borrowed talking points in order to get published.

    I would ask: where are the results? Are the design’s features validated in the performance of the project? Has the client been able to recruit new physicians on the basis of the design? Has communication improved in measurable a ways, such as reduced errors, better throughout, reduced wait times, or other validating measures?

    Too often we architects get hung up on our own work and mid-attribute results that are not justified.

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