On December 10, Interior Design hosted its second Health and Wellness roundtable of the year, spotlighting the changing nature of healthcare design at the HKS Architects headquarters in Dallas, Texas. Throughout the lively two-hour discussion, moderated by Interior Design EVP of Digital Pamela McNally, the intimate group of designers, architects, and manufacturers posited ways technological innovations are impacting product specification as well as the importance of post-occupancy product studies.
The roundtable—sponsored by ThermaSol, Mannington Commercial, Wilsonart, and Ultrafabrics—made clear technology is revolutionizing healthcare in many aspects, especially given the advent of telehealth centers, leaving designers grappling with how to approach their work differently. "We’re designing spaces where there’s not people in them, or maybe the doctor is only there once a week," said one designer. "We’re trying to figure out how to design for that and asking: How do we incorporate this type of healthcare? How do we implement the technology? How do we keep patient privacy safe? There's lots of innovative elements, but also lots of problems."
Though technology plays a major role in health and wellness projects when it comes to product specification, human interaction remains paramount when it comes to care. Attendees agreed that open conversations between those involved in a given project should drive design choices, not technology alone. "We'll see technology stretch the human ability to serve, but I don't think we’re ready to replace humans all together [with robots]," said one designer.
Communication also is vital when it comes to the way manufacturers present their products, since a clear narrative can sway specification decisions. "We see more and more of our clients interested in a product's story," offered one attendee. "They want a sustainable story or a health and wellness story in their environment, so finding the right fit to give them the best bang for their buck in that respect is important."
Ultimately, designers want products that are safe and built to last in healthcare facilities. That's where post-occupancy studies can have a lasting impact. While these studies are challenging and time-consuming to do, designers agreed that hard data about a product's performance will pay off. "If you have research to back up why your healthcare product is tried and true and how it has already performed then that is going to speak volumes to your future business as well as to the organization you’re pitching to," said one attendee as the roundtable winded down.
But the discussion didn't stop there. Attendees joined McNally for a dinner immediately following the event, topping off a stimulating evening of discussions about design.