The difficulty in planning facilities in such a fast-shifting health care landscape was one of the points frequently discussed at this spring’s American Society for Healthcare Engineering’s International Summit & Exhibition on Health Facility Planning, Design, & Construction in San Antonio.

How, for instance, can somebody plan a facility three, five or even 10 years out when the health care industry itself is undergoing almost annual cycles of change? This becomes even more difficult under current budget constraints, when simple answers like more shell space are no longer options.

To help provide answers, this month’s HFM Design News kicks off with an article on flexible design that explores various strategies and processes entailed in building health care facilities for an uncertain future.

Health care is a complex, adaptive, evolving system, states James R. Kolb, AIA, LEED AP, health care design principal in the Jacksonville, Fla., office of design and consulting firm Gresham, Smith and Partners. Flexibility in facility design enables hospitals and health systems to pursue continuous improvement without continuous renovation.

The future is the primary focus of this month’s second article, too, which covers hospital-based innovation centers.

Looking at their roles as testing grounds for new design concepts, this article explores the work of innovation centers run by Kaiser Permanente, Intermountain Healthcare, MedStar Health, Cleveland Clinic, Johns Hopkins and many others. Read about their findings and success stories.

Environments that enable clinicians and staff to do their best work are important to patient care, notes John Kouletsis, AIA, EDAC, vice president, facilities planning and design, Kaiser Permanente. “Quite frankly, a great building will never fix bad care. But a great building will radically improve terrific care,” he says.

This month’s HFM Design News ends with a couple of features that dig deeply into specific design issues: one article examines eight staff and patients flows and how to accommodate them in an efficient health care design; and another article looks at the fast-growing area of cancer care and how interior designs can meet the needs of its patients and staff.

Health care architects, interior designers, project managers and other facilities professionals are finding themselves having to design on the fly as the health care environment continues to change in unpredictable ways. These four stories will show how their peers are handlings these challenges and where their design options might lie.