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If you've been in the healthcare design industry for 30+ years like I have, you've seen a lot of design trends and fads come and go.

If you're relatively new to the field, you may think that many of the ideas people are talking about today are new. But the reality is that a lot of these ideas are design trends that are now standard practice. And some are design fads that could become trends.

So what's the difference between a trend and a fad?

A trend is a prevailing tendency that’s gradually gaining momentum and might have long-term implications, while a fad is a short-term burst of interest or way of being (like bellbottom pants).

Breaking it Down

With the help of my friend, healthcare architect Sheila Cahnman, I came up with the following lists of healthcare design trends and fads.

Healthcare design trends of the past that are now standard practice include:

  • Single patient rooms
  • Access to nature and natural light
  • Flexible spaces
  • Wayfinding systems
  • Sleeper sofas/chairs
  • Art as positive distraction
  • Indirect lighting

Emerging trends in healthcare design include:

  • Healthy buildings (ones that don't harm people or the planet)
  • Neurodiverse environments
  • Smart hospitals

Current healthcare design fads that could become trends (and eventually standard practice) include:

  • Circadian lighting systems
  • Roof gardens
  • ED pods
  • Staff respite rooms
  • Equitable spaces
  • Operable windows

Past healthcare design fads that had their moment include:

  • Aquariums
  • Labyrinths
  • Family kitchens
  • Hotel-like environments
  • Universal patient rooms

There's also trends in healthcare service, delivery, and operation that affect healthcare design. Current ones include:

  • Virtual care
  • Urgent care
  • Micro-hospitals
  • Behavioral and mental health
  • Patient experience
  • Workforce challenges
  • Fewer hospital beds
  • ESG policies

And of course, the big emerging trend in healthcare service and delivery is digital technology -- which includes everything from mobile apps, software that supports clinical decisions, artificial intelligence, and machine learning. Dare I say it? The metaverse hospital.

There's probably a lot I'm missing here, but you get the idea. Ten years down the road, some of these fads and trends will have faded. Some will be mainstream.

But to keep moving forward, we need to understand and appreciate what's come before.

One More Thing

If you're going to be at the Healthcare Facilities Symposium and Expo in Charlotte next week, be sure to say "hi" if you see me roaming the halls. I'll be the person with the big smile on my face.

P.S. Please do me a favor -- if you liked this post and like this blog, please share it with others by sending them the link or posting it on your Twitter, LinkedIn, or Facebook. Also, don't forget to subscribe, so you'll get emails when new content is posted. Thanks!

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Leave a comment

Patrick Leahy AIA, EDAC, LEED AP

2 weeks ago

thanks for sharing. It’s a great list.

Ruth Simon Mcrae

1 week ago

Excellent article!

Sara Marberry_013-Retouched-New copy

Sara Marberry, EDAC, is a healthcare design knowledge expert, thought catalyst, and strategic marketing and business development consultant. The author/editor of three books, Sara writes and speaks frequently about industry trends and evidence-based design. She can be reached at sara@saramarberry.com.

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