When the editors of Health Facilities Management published last year's annual trends issue, the scope of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act and the changes it likely would bring to hospitals was the focus of much discussion but considerably less clarity.

With political battles still raging and the U.S. Supreme Court planning to step in, one is tempted to say that's still the case. But many health care organizations have spent the intervening year moving forward and executing plans to provide care more efficiently, safely and at a lower cost regardless of the regulatory climate.

Indeed, it's become obvious that no matter what happens in the nation's capital, successful hospitals will be the ones capable of
bending the cost curve and improving the quality of the delivery system. Moreover, health care institutions that have begun this journey are learning that it's a top-down effort, not limited to the C-suite or clinical departments.

HFM's readers, for example, also are playing a crucial role by driving costs out of the design and construction process, operating facilities and their infrastructure in a more efficient and sustainable way, improving cleaning and infection prevention performance to help reduce readmissions, and becoming more collaborative with physicians in managing the supply chain.

This year's annual trends issue takes a closer look at these efforts, providing important data and expert advice. Whether readers are masters of process improvement or still developing their strategies, they'll be sure to find invaluable information to consider, discuss and apply.

Because, whatever the political climate, health care's emphasis on improved efficiency is always moving forward.