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The healthcare crisis is upon us. In response to soaring costs, a jumbled patchwork of insurance programs, and critical problems in delivering medical care, some kind of national health insurance has seemed in recent years to be an idea whose time has finally come in America.

Where and when is this quote from?

That one of the questions Sarah Bader of Gensler and I asked the 40+ people who attended our interactive session last Sunday at the Healthcare Design Expo and Conference in Orlando to talk about the trends shaping healthcare facility design and construction.

One of the attendees nailed it. "Nixon," he said.

It was a statement journalist Godfrey Hodgson made in an article he wrote for the Atlantic in 1973 titled, "The Politics of American Health Care:  What is it Costing You?"


"Politics and healthcare have been intertwined for as long as many people in this room can remember," Bader told the group. "This has been in and out of the national conversation for the past 50+ years. You might say we are experiencing political whiplash."

And yet, participants were somewhat reluctant to comment about politics' effect on the design and construction of healthcare facilities in the U.S. Perhaps it is because we're all tired of the back and forth happening in Washington. We don't really know what's going to happen next.

The opening keynote speaker, healthcare innovation strategist and futurist Nicholas Webb, had made a bold statement prior to our discussion that morning. He said, "We will get to a single-payer system."

But Webb didn't really comment on what that would mean for healthcare facilities, other than the impact of technology on how and where healthcare is delivered. "Fifty-percent of clinical visits are moving to connected devices," he said.

People and Preferences

Besides Politics, Bader and I also brought up Preferences and People as discussion topics.

I asked them which generation is likely to have the most impact on how healthcare is delivered? How do we accommodate the individual preferences of the Boomers, Gen Exers, and Millennials through design?

The group was reluctant to put healthcare consumers into silos.  With Webb's presentation fresh in their minds, the discussion quickly became about the experience of healthcare.

Most felt that the experience of healthcare is universal.  It's not age-related, but it can be.  Everyone wants a great healthcare experience.

In his keynote, Webb had said, "There is no such thing as a Millennial factor." But we told our group that we didn't think he made a very good case for it.

He used his own four kids and wife to illustrate that despite their ages, they all wanted the same thing -- a good experience. Not a very big sample size.

Just minutes before, he'd shown us a "Saturday Night Live" video about Amazon Echo Silver, a skit the comedy troupe had produced to make fun of Greatest Generation seniors who have trouble using Google's smart home assistant. I do think there are generational differences when it comes to using technology.

Participants in our interactive felt that comfort with technology depends on your personal experience with it and is not always tied to age.  Making technology accessible allows healthcare consumers to get information they need at the right time.


Our fourth discussion point was Planet.  Most everyone raised their hand when asked if they believed that climate change was real. And many also raised their hands when asked if they knew anyone who didn't.

I shared with the group that Dr. Georges Benjamin, Executive Director of the American Public Health Association, says that climate change is the greatest public health threat that we have.

When asked if their clients or leadership are concerned about climate change, most nodded yes.  But many felt that it was too hard to predict what is going to happen. Some brought up examples like Super Storm Sandy, which could have brought much more devastation to the New York region if the surge had been higher.

Designing buildings, particularly those in areas prone to natural disasters, to be resilient is one answer to climate change.  The other, of course, as one young woman pointed out, is to take better care of our planet. She wanted us to look at the waste that is produced in hospitals.

"And, we need to lead by example and not have paper cups at our healthcare design conferences," she said.

Addressing climate change will take more than just the healthcare design industry. "We need more people at the table to solve the problem," said Bill Coble from Steelcase Health.

What do you have to add to this discussion?  Please comment below.

Also, download our handout from the session, Healthcare Trends for 2017 a compilation of recent studies that address Politics, Planet, People, and Preferences.

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Leave a comment

Norwina Mohd Nawawi

7 years ago

Are these experiences reflections of the Americans only or significant concerns to global healthcare -universal?

Sara Marberry

7 years ago

Politics may be specific to the U.S., but I think the patient experience and climate change are global.

Edward Logsdon

7 years ago

Recently I attended a Thanksgiving celebration/lunch at a senior care facility. They used all plastic plates and utensils and cups. If this is representative of all facilities like this (and this place is exemplary for care) then healthcare facilities in general need to start recycling as much as possible.

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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