Welcome to Health Facilities Management's (HFM's) annual Trends in Health Care special issue, in which we gather insights and statistical data from a wide variety of sources to show how health facilities professionals are performing and where they need to go in this era of post-reform restructuring.

Trends in Health Care comprises a "big-picture" overview discussion followed by individual looks at metrics pertaining to design, infection prevention, sustainability and the supply chain. The articles, charts and tables provide ample evidence that hospitals, individually and in aggregate, are data-rich environments.

Indeed, one of the struggles with which health care "C-suite" executives are currently grappling is how best to capture, process and act upon the vast stores of information hospitals churn out every day. This so-called "big data" challenge has immense potential, according to a May 2011 study by McKinsey Global Institute, which asserts that it could help the health care sector create more than $300 billion in value every year.

What may surprise some of HFM's readers is that big data also has become a hot topic within the facilities management field. In fact, building automation vendors like Schneider Electric and real estate service firms like Jones Lang LaSalle are discussing how the plethora of data spun out by sophisticated capital equipment, copious building sensors and meters, and tech-savvy third parties can be turned into actionable intelligence to boost facility efficiency.

Today's hospitals are awash with relevant data sets such as those that appear in this special issue. The organizations that extract and apply the most useful information will have the best chance of succeeding as the post-reform transition continues.