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I'm glad to report that healthcare is still alive and well at NeoCon -- the largest U.S. commercial furniture, flooring, fabrics, and furnishings show that took place at Chicago's Merchandise Mart this week.

But I didn't see much that really excited me. Okay, I was only there one day and couldn't possibly see everything, but I asked a couple of healthcare designers that I ran into what they thought.

Their reaction was the same as mine.

NeoCon is About Office Design, Right?

For the past 51 years, NeoCon has primarily been a showcase for office design. But in the last 20 years, there's been an increasing number of products for education, hospitality, and healthcare.

It's probably unrealistic to expect healthcare product manufacturers to introduce their most innovative products at NeoCon. And while I know designers are always craving more options, it's hard to get excited about a new arm cap or material finish on a waiting room chair or sofa.

Newer and Better

I saw a really nice patient motion chair at Wieland. But the truth is, it reminded me of the Rose Chair Roger Leib designed 25+ years ago.

And I liked Kwalu's Best of Neocon Gold award-winning Prizzi Lounge Chair. Its stylish mid-century modern looks are just what many senior living designers are looking for today.

Designtex's Biophilia Collection of healthcare textiles is a good solution for bringing natural elements into healthcare spaces. It also won a gold award.

But it's not a new idea.  Just a newer, better version.

Maybe newer and better is where we're at with healthcare products right now. Which is okay, but it's not what moves the needle.

Excited About Technology

What did kind of did excite me at NeoCon, though, was the telemedicine "pod" idea that Steelcase Health was showing. Building upon the company's recent solutions to integrate technology into exam rooms, this closed container provides a private, properly-lit, comfortable environment for clinicians and patients to have virtual visits.

I also learned at NeoCon that one of the flooring manufacturers is developing a smart floor. It's too early to say who and what, but it could be a game-changer in assisted living, skilled nursing, and memory care.

Who will be the first to introduce a smart patient chair? Perhaps the technology isn't cheap enough yet.

What Else?

Beyond healthcare, a really cool thing I saw at NeoCon was the Obeya architectural structures product from OFS, which was named Best of Competition in the Best of NeoCon awards.

This innovative idea to address the human needs of privacy and belonging uses wood as a framework to create shared spaces, multi-purpose areas, as well as divide spaces. It's supposed to be for workplaces, schools, and hospitality environments, but I think it could also be used in a hospital, clinic, or a senior living community.

If you attended NeoCon, what did you see that excited you?

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Sara Marberry_013-Retouched-New copy

What's my story? I'm a healthcare and senior living design knowledge expert who writes and speaks frequently about trends and issues affecting these two industries. I'm also a strategic marketing consultant and content creator, working with companies and organizations who want to improve the quality of healthcare and senior living through the design of the physical environment. You can reach me at .

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