Outpatient Care of the Future: What design and construction reveal about transformative changes in healthcare

Sep 26, 2023 at 10:59 am by Staff


By Laura Padgett, Vice President and Senior Architect and Matthew Griffith, Vice President, Director of Healthcare at Barge Design Solutions  


In the ever-evolving landscape of healthcare, change is a constant. It manifests in various ways, from shifts in processes, procedures, techniques, and treatments to the transformation of healthcare facilities themselves. These structures serve as visible indicators of how healthcare is evolving. The rise of multispecialty campuses reflects a trend toward larger medical practices, with a notable focus on behavioral health services. Dedicated facilities like our recent project, the Vanderbilt Medical Center Behavioral Health Intake Center, are emerging as vital elements within hospital campuses.

Across the country engineers and architects are witnessing a surge in demand that will reshape healthcare consumption. This demand primarily centers around the construction of high-quality specialized outpatient facilities. These facilities, once limited to routine procedures, are evolving into sophisticated hubs capable of delivering quality care in a more accessible manner. The proliferation of such facilities implies increased access to advanced treatments, personalized care, and improved financial stability for all stakeholders. In this article, we will delve into the specifics of these emerging trends in healthcare infrastructure, shedding light on the industry's ongoing transformations.

Comprehensive Specialization

Healthcare organizations are undergoing a transformative shift, envisioning their facilities with a more streamlined and precise approach. They are now focusing on specific medical specialties, such as oncology and orthopedics, and creating dedicated spaces capable of accommodating a wide range of disease types and their corresponding treatments, all within a single facility. This innovative approach brings patients a more personalized form of care within a convenient setting, eliminating the need for individuals to traverse multiple locations for a single medical condition.

To achieve this vision, healthcare space design must prioritize both patient comfort and convenience while optimizing workflow for healthcare providers. This involves conducting a thorough evaluation of the intake process and anticipating potential patient, staff, and supply flow patterns. Comprehensive specialized healthcare isn't just about improving processes for healthcare providers; it's also about enhancing the overall patient experience to boost satisfaction.

Central to a patient-centric strategy is the overarching goal of elevating both satisfaction and operational efficiency, all within the framework of prudent financial management, considering key variables such as expenses, interest rates, and material lead times. This collaborative effort with facility owners involves optimizing material selections and square footage, incorporating cutting-edge technology-, and enhancing the efficiency of room space utilization.

For example, nurse stations are integral to this comprehensive design approach, carefully crafted to enhance patient visibility and ensure convenient access to other spaces such as medication rooms, and other critical support functions. This, in turn, enhances the capabilities of healthcare staff, enabling them to fulfill multiple roles efficiently, and helps address the challenge of staffing medical facilities. An excellent demonstration of these principles in action can be seen at the recently finished Vanderbilt Ingram Cancer Center in Franklin. This center exemplifies the successful implementation of a patient-centric philosophy in specialized healthcare design.


Enhanced Accessibility in Healthcare

Healthcare organizations are evolving to broaden the scope of procedures traditionally confined to specialized hospitals, now offering them in outpatient settings. This shift in healthcare dynamics hinges on the variety of healthcare facilities available. Notably, there is a burgeoning emphasis on ambulatory surgery centers, strategically situated offsite rather than within the confines of large hospital campuses.

Our team is additionally witnessing a surge in technological innovations, with robotic assistance increasingly pivotal in surgical procedures. An illustrative example is the rising trend of international medical experts remotely conducting surgeries for U.S. patients, particularly in cardiac surgery. This underscores a growing inclination towards remote and minimally invasive procedures.

Robust infrastructure is paramount to support these transformative changes, including the installation of robust cable rough ins for electrical and data capacity, ensuring seamless data transfer. Equally noteworthy is the meteoric rise of telehealth, with hospitals now dedicating spaces equipped with cutting-edge technology to facilitate telehealth visits. This trend makes healthcare more accessible and convenient for patients, ultimately reshaping how we approach and receive medical care.


Cost-effective Procedures

Advancements in medical technology and changes in payment models have made outpatient surgeries more cost-effective. This benefits healthcare providers, insurers, and patients. Reimbursement policies have also changed as a result of the pandemic, allowing specific procedures like cardiac and orthopedic surgeries to be done in outpatient settings, making it easier for patients to access care. This shift has led to reevaluating facility design, focusing on delivering efficient care in smaller spaces. These outpatient centers used to be connected to hospitals, but now they are often separate facilities, making cost-effective procedures more accessible.


Embracing Accessibility, Specialization, and Efficiency

The proliferation of outpatient care facilities reflects the evolving landscape of healthcare, specifically its design. It involves a shift toward more specialized services, improved accessibility, and cost-effective procedures. These changes in design and construction highlight healthcare's future direction, emphasizing accessibility, specialization, and efficiency. The ultimate goal is to enhance patient outcomes and experiences, while also maximizing staff experience and retention.

Barge Design Solutions, Inc. is a design firm with diverse in-house multi-disciplinary practice areas. The employee-owned company is 500+ people strong and serves clients nationwide from multiple U.S. locations. Barge is ranked No. 169 on Engineering News-Record’s (ENR) 2023 Top 500 Design Firms list, is No. 205 on Architectural News-Record’s 2022 Top 300 U.S. Architecture Firms list and is a certified Great Place To Work. Learn more at bargedesign.com.

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