In today's health care system, it's no longer enough to build for today. State-of-the-art technology and modern design are well and good, but today's landscape presents organizations with the challenge to constantly think ahead and design facilities that will still be relevant years from now.

Palomar Health in North San Diego County, Calif., put this concept on display when it completed its 739,000-square-foot, 288-bed medical center. The health system developed a single-story warehouse that can house a variety of service lines and can be modified or changed entirely as the hospital’s demands shift.

Palomar worked with Thomas Chessum, principal at CO Architects, who says hospitals have to find a balance between designing for human factors and designing for innovation.

Human factors consist of the healing attributes that should be embedded into every facility, such as natural lighting, noise abatement, views of nature and space for family visits. Designing for innovation is where flexible design comes in.

"This is about establishing a framework in which flexibility can continue so the building itself has a life into the future," Chessum says. "The building itself becomes a venue for different types of opportunities, like a plug-and-play."

MedStar Health recently completed a new ambulatory facility in Chevy Chase, Md., that also demonstrates the flexible design concept. MedStar wanted the facility to be a model for integrated care, bringing together neurologists, neurosurgeons, physical therapists, nurses, psychologists, dietitians and more. To accommodate this strategy, MedStar worked with Trinity Health Group to design a highly adaptable multiuse space.

Other hospitals, including Norton Women's and Kosair Children's Hospital, Main Line Health, PinnacleHealth and Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children's Hospital, have used flexible design in their facilities, as well.

Greg Quinn, PE, LEED AP, principal and health care practice leader, Affiliated Engineers Inc. worked on the Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children's Hospital and says, "Designers and builders of the health care facilities of the future have some work to do to help our clients understand the true value of investing on Day 1, for what they don't know — particularly now, with the uncertainty in health care."


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