SEPTEMBER 24-26, 2024
Austin Convention Center - Austin, Texas

Rethinking Healthcare Design to Appeal the Workforce Shortage

By Julian Lopez, NCIDQ, IIDA, Senior Project Designer at HMC Architects.

When it comes to healthcare design, the vernacular among architects and designers must revolve around the patient experience, healing environments, and promoting healthier local communities. This common verse among healthcare professionals has not only been mastered, but it has also, from time-and-time again, been regurgitated by the formulations of evidence-based design, positioning architect and design firms to create the next best healthcare facility. Then came Covid-19 and, healthcare facilities have had to reinvent themselves multiple times over the course of the pandemic. How times have changed.

As Covid-19 emerged, not only were entities forced to shut down elective services, but they became the imminent forefront for humanity. Quickly, they found themselves in survival mode for their operating budgets and the lives of their own professionals.
The world has not been the same, and neither has the healthcare workforce after the exhaustion and burnout of facing Covid-19 head-on since early 2020. As a result, the healthcare workforce crisis continues to threaten organizations while hospital employment continues to decline.

“Prioritizing design around the patient experience is no longer the only priority,” said CEO of Alta Hospitals, Hector Hernandez, MD, MBA. “For the first time in my 30 years in healthcare administration, I have had to become extra creative by finding ways to retain nursing and clinical ancillary staff. This has included providing additional break rooms, Zen-type meditation rooms, spaces to provide pet therapy for employees and physicians, while enhancing cafeteria services that operate 24/7, not to mention increasing morgue capacity and providing accommodations for those not wanting to go home due to fear of getting their family sick. Design cannot be ignored because now it accounts for what nurses and staff are looking for when making a decision to join Alta Hospitals.”

What does this ultimately mean for healthcare designers?
More than ever, designing those support areas for healthcare providers such as staff lounges, staff dining facilities and physician on-call rooms, among other spaces, must be closely analyzed and programmatically defined to account for the healthcare workforce incentive factor.
The design-build team of Hensel Phelps | HMC Architects | CO Architects is leading the design and construction of Harbor UCLA Medical Center Replacement Program, one of HMC Architects’ largest healthcare projects. The new 468,000 SF inpatient care tower with 346 beds, as well as a 403,000 SF outpatient treatment center and support building is not only looking closely at what the design means for patient care, the project is analyzing how the design also supports those who care for the patients.
While staff safety has always been crucial for HMC, taking a closer look at what this means coming out of a pandemic has reactivated design efforts into actual checklist of items. At Harbor-UCLA, patient-and-staff interaction hubs such as check-in and registration areas are being designed with aesthetic precaution. Desking must include privacy panels while other areas are divided with transaction glass windows where color and graphics help soothe environments. Taming design to not only care for patient privacy but to now account for enhanced staff protection has meant rethinking space planning layouts where social distance is layered and preferred. Waiting areas where tandem seating once allowed for maximizing occupancy loads are now becoming dispersed and accounting for safety versus overcrowding.
While HMC continues to design in support of enhanced patient care, and operational and sustainable efficiency, the design-build team’s efforts with Harbor-UCLA are consequently addressing the importance for employee mental health as well.

The project is aiming for LEED Gold Certification. Ensuring sustainability goals are met throughout the entire campus program results in strong design efforts that support employee wellness and reducing burnout and turnover.

Aesthetically, the design incorporates the surrounding environment. Local textures and colors of the harbor and calm local South Bay are reminiscent through material textures and curved finishes. Biophilic design concepts are used throughout; expanded visibility of the native landscape and natural light that seeps into the main lobby and other employee and patient areas provide staff and visitors the opportunity to mentally reset and restore.

Hernandez, CEO of three Alta Hospitals in Southern California not only recommends focusing on spaces dictated by our local labor force and younger generations, but emphasized on how we must also address diversity, equity and inclusion for the thousands of nurses and healthcare professional coming from countries such as the Philippines, India, Canada, and Mexico, among others. Their cultural differences must be addressed for their better adaptation and cultural transgression issues related to their relocation to the United States.
According to YM Careers Network, one of many recruiting organizations connecting Millennials and Gen Z healthcare talent with healthcare systems, it is important to have modern, tech-friendly systems in place to attract today’s candidates. It’s important to design for technology systems that support staff communication and efficiency such as remote interview areas, intentional kiosk locations within hospitals, and mobile-friendly interfaces and communication, all of which serve as part of the recipe for a tech-friendly recruitment approach.

For designers, this means having to heighten our knowledge on how we view and design around technology and cultural barriers. Design for the healthcare professional coming from another country and cultural background, must account for religion, gender identification and ethnicity to make them feel welcomed and diminish possible barriers.
At Harbor-UCLA, designing around technology to support staff communication and operating efficiencies means keeping an outlook for future technological needs and not ignoring how future healthcare talent will approach technology. This means not designing wall niches for queuing monitors or a television in public waiting areas, as we are used to doing because we don’t know what the future holds for queuing system technologies or if a television of a specific display size will continue to serve an entire waiting area.
So, what does this all mean for healthcare designers and architects acclimating to this new healthcare era?
The answer is simple. Designing in post-pandemic times requires that we address not only the immediate urgencies that will mitigate a dwindled workforce but that we continue to design for future generations while not overlooking to tune up the true healthcare engine—the healthcare workforce, a locomotive force that served us when we needed them most.

Building the future of healthcare facilities with a concierge luxury approach

By:Joel George MBA, MSN, RN, PhD candidate, Executive Director of Retail Services l Health Parks, AdventHealth

The hospitality industry currently accounts for 11% of the US GDP and is valued at around 3953 billion dollars. Hospitality is one of the world’s largest and fastest-growing industries, as it covers more than 25 sectors, from hotels and resorts to restaurants, event planning, theme parks, and tourism. With the amount of attention to detail the hospitality industry places on their products, why is healthcare not reaching this consumer base by implementing consumer-centric personalized experiential moments in a similar way?

Over the years, I have wondered why healthcare has suffered a negative connotation of being looked at as dark, sterile environments where patients go for reactive care. It is time to change that approach as the new generation of consumers are searching for personalized exclusivity in healthcare. Three years ago, I set a goal to figure out what consumers truly want to see in an ideal healthcare setting. My motto has always been, if we want to know what consumers want, ask them! Starting as a registered nurse and witnessing firsthand what patients actually experience by walking into a dark, sterile environment propelled me to focus on a new vision of consumer centricity and how patients would ideally want to experience a healing environment. I was blessed with an opportunity to serve as director of radiology for a AdventHealth after practicing as an ER nurse for 4 years. The moment I stepped foot into the radiology department, I wanted to transform the patient experience by taking their mind off of the imaging exam they were coming in for and putting them at ease. The entire department was beachside themed with sandcastles covering the MRI machine, cabana areas as dressing rooms, and ocean sounds playing while patients were drinking their contrast media. My goal was to embed the newest innovative technology within the department. We were able to pilot a front desk concierge digital experience to keep family members informed in the lobby as their loved ones were having a procedure or scan done. We saw that through these meaningful enhancements within the environment and use of technology, the administration of sedatives prior and during exams decreased by 2.5%, which helped with overall departmental cost savings.

Three years ago, I was asked to work on a special project focused on dreaming up ideas for the future of health care. The goal was to understand consumer behaviors and understand what patients would like to see in an ideal healthcare setting. The CEO asked eight specialized innovators, including myself to travel to New York and work with a creative agency on ideas that would be consumer-focused and push innovation forward. While there, ideas circled around creating a one-stop shop facility called Health Parks across our healthcare system. We wanted to focus on developing these buildings to have an elevated concierge approach along with a luxury feel. We went directly to the consumer through the implementation of a survey and asked what they wanted to see and experience in a fully immersive medical office building. The themes that were important to them were; a clean environment, one-bill, access (extended hours), and a seamlessly connected experience with a single EMR.

With this feedback, we worked with a team to build out our first “Health Park” in our healthcare system in 2020. The services in the building included lab, imaging, physical therapy, primary care, and specialty medical practices creating a true one-stop facility. It was important to ensure we had natural light in the building with a transparent frontage, along with modern high-end luxury furniture. We also took lessons from major brands such as Apple in creating a genius bar concept front desk registration experience. The hallmark characteristics of these facilities centered around a centralized check-in experience without multiple front desks, partnering with local coffee shops and bringing them into the facility, and training each staff member on a true hospitality approach to healthcare with learnings from major brands like the Ritz Carlton and Chick-fil-A. We also created a connected experience by integrating a corridor that attached all specialty services and primary care together in a free-flowing open layout. This was intentionally built so that each practice could easily refer and transition patients on the same day. One out of three patients continue to receive multiple services on the same day. We solved the problem of healthcare access by expanding hours of operations to 7a- 10p Monday through Friday and weekend appointment availability. Over 30% of our appointments are booked after 5p Monday through Friday and on weekends, showing the need for flexible hours of operations meeting the consumer on their time. Every interaction in the health parks is a hospitality-centric experience. All of the “Engagement Specialists” (front desk associates) have been concierge trained to make sure patients receive everything they need before departing. We implemented a lifestyle program focusing on free yoga, cooking classes, and mental health talks to truly create a partnership with our patients.

My vision has always been evident in ensuring we create lifetime partnerships with our patients. I am proud to say our health parks are the highest Google-rated facilities in our system. Being a visionary who is obsessed with experience, I truly believe that the only way to retain future consumers is to create personalized, humanistic, convenient, and memorable moments for them. The future of healthcare is undoubtedly focused on personalized care, and we have found the secret sauce in truly creating a one-stop connected experience and making our patients lifetime partners at our facilities. The future of healthcare is ripe for disruption, and a consumer-centric approach is crucial to stay viable in the current healthcare environment. We must learn from luxury brands what keeps their consumers obsessed with their brands and make sure healthcare follows suit in understanding learned behaviors and anticipating needs before consumers walk through our doors.

Benefits of Electronic Bidet Seats in Assisted Living

By: Steve Grande, LIXIL Americas

As we age, even the simplest tasks can become difficult to manage. For seniors residing in assisted living facilities or retirement communities, maintaining personal hygiene is a challenge that can lead to embarrassment and discomfort. This difficulty can affect their overall health and quality of life, which is why senior living residences are always looking for ways to improve the daily living experience of their residents. Fortunately, technology has provided a solution to this problem in the form of electronic bidet seats. These seats have revolutionized the way we use the bathroom, and for seniors, they offer numerous benefits that make daily life much more comfortable.

Electronic bidet seats, which originated in Japan, have become increasingly popular in the United States in recent years, are toilet seats with integrated bidet functions. They come equipped with a control panel that allows users to customize the temperature, pressure, and position of the water spray for maximum comfort and cleanliness. Some seats also includes a warm air dryer and odor neutralizer, making the experience as seamless and pleasant as possible.

One of the most significant benefits of electronic bidet seats for seniors is improved hygiene. Many seniors struggle with hygiene issues due to limited mobility or other health issues, which can lead to infections, skin irritations, and other problems. Electronic bidet seats provide a more thorough cleaning than traditional toilet paper, which can leave behind bacteria and other contaminants. This thorough cleaning can help prevent infections and other health issues, making seniors feel more comfortable and confident in their hygiene.

Another benefit of electronic bidet seats is increased comfort. Seniors who struggle with mobility or arthritis may find it challenging to clean themselves the traditional way, which can cause pain and discomfort. Electronic bidet seats eliminate the need for wiping, which can help alleviate this discomfort and help increase the user’s dignity by not needing help in the restroom to clean up. Additionally, many electronic bidet seats feature heated seats, which can be particularly beneficial for seniors who are sensitive to sudden temperature changes.

In addition to these practical benefits, electronic bidet seats also offer a level of luxury that is often associated with high-end hotels and spas. For seniors who may have limited mobility or live with chronic pain, the warm water and heated seat can provide a soothing and therapeutic experience that is unmatched by traditional toilets.

Perhaps the most significant benefit of electronic bidet seats in senior living residences is increased independence. Many seniors struggle with tasks that were once simple, such as using the toilet. This loss of independence can be frustrating and embarrassing, particularly for seniors who value their privacy. Electronic bidet seats can help seniors maintain their independence by providing them with a tool that makes using the toilet easier and more hygienic. This increased independence can help seniors maintain their dignity and self-esteem, which can have a positive impact on their overall well-being.

While we have discussed these very human benefits, electronic bidet seats can also save senior living residences money. Traditional toilet paper can be expensive, particularly if residents require specialized or medical-grade paper. Electronic bidet seats eliminate the need for toilet paper, which can significantly reduce a residence’s annual budget. Additionally, electronic bidet seats can help prevent plumbing issues caused by flushing toilet paper, which can be particularly problematic in older buildings.

Of course, as with any new technology, there are some potential downsides to electronic bidet seats. For example, some seniors may be resistant to using a bidet seat, particularly if they are unfamiliar with the technology. Additionally, electronic bidet seats can be costly, particularly if they are not covered by insurance. With their popularity in the western world growing, we have seen prices drop considerably on electronic bidet seats from even a few years ago. However, many senior living residences have found that the benefits of electronic bidet seats outweigh the potential downsides, particularly when it comes to improving residents’ overall health and well-being. It costs very little to include power outlets at the toilet area in the design and build stage of these projects and retro-fitting existing projects can be done with a simple inspection by a plumber or electrician.

In conclusion, electronic bidet seats are an innovative and beneficial technology for senior living residences. These seats provide numerous benefits, including improved hygiene, increased comfort, and increased independence for seniors. Additionally, electronic bidet seats can save residences money and prevent plumbing issues caused by traditional toilet paper. While there may be some downsides to using electronic bidet seats, many senior living residences have found that the benefits to their residents outweigh the potential drawbacks. Overall, electronic bidet seats are a valuable tool for improving the daily living experience of seniors in senior living residences.

Hospitals Are Complicated. Let Digital Wayfinding Reduce Anxiety For Patients & Visitors

By: Todd J. Fisher, Founder and Chairman of Intraprise Solutions (Eyedog.US is a Division of Intraprise Solutions, Inc.)

At the end of January, a close family member of mine began to experience heart failure while we were sitting on the couch watching the news. With a jolt of adrenaline, I drove her to the ER, helped her register, and answered questions from clinical staff as they measured her vital signs, performed diagnostic tests, and provided preliminary treatment. Like it is for so many people in hospitals across the US, every single day, the experience was stressful, overwhelming, and emotionally draining.


And, over the next two weeks while she remained in inpatient care, having several tests and multiple procedures, I returned back to the hospital to visit, learn, and serve as an advocate. I was reminded of something I already knew, but had not felt so viscerally before: family members of patients spend a great deal of cognitive energy while supporting their loved ones, often over long periods of time, while hungry, thirsty, and sleep deprived.


In an already emotionally charged, stressful moment, the physical environment of a hospital can exacerbate feelings of anxiety: hospitals are, for a handful of reasons, inherently difficult to navigate. Hospitals often have hundreds of destinations that need to be accessible from any given starting point within and outside the hospital. Large hospitals, on sprawling, multi-building campuses – sometimes merging old and new structures – make navigation less than intuitive. Pedestrians navigating these spaces are often in an emotionally vulnerable state: visiting a hospital as a patient, or as a loved one of a patient, is stressful to begin, and makes navigating an unfamiliar or confusing space feel impossible.



Photo Landmark Navigation: More than Maps


Actually, navigating indoors is tricky even at an emotionally neutral state, especially when using digital wayfinding applications as a resource aimed at ‘simplifying’ the navigation process. We are all familiar with digital navigation systems while driving – in-dash navigation, Google Maps, and Waze have revolutionized the way we find our way while driving.  We don’t think much about how it works, we’re just grateful for the huge improvement over printing out maps, following road signs, tracking mile markers, or heaven forbid, pulling over to ask another human for directions.


As we consider the application of this navigation paradigm to solve a different challenge – finding our way as we move inside large complex buildings – we are quickly reminded that the real feat of Google Maps isn’t so much the tech that makes it all possible, but the simplicity and clarity with which Google communicates directions in cadence with the movement of our navigation. When we can visually match our current location with our surroundings, it becomes easy to see where to go next.


However, when we try to apply this GPS concept to pedestrian indoor navigation, we realize the tech that works wonderfully for navigating in open space while moving at 60mph may not serve us as well in confined spaces at low speed, where our view of the navigation landscape is obstructed by walls and ceilings. What we need is a method that converges with users’ natural way of thinking and effectively accommodates indoor navigation nuances without confusing or frustrating the user.


Thankfully, the scientific community has produced a stable of research regarding how humans think when it comes to matters of spatial awareness. Their key takeaway is our need for visual landmarks, as they are the most efficient way to communicate wayfinding instructions, especially in circumstances such as hospital navigation, where anxiety is high, users are distracted, and cognitive capacity is compromised.


Landmarks allow for fast reasoning because they align with humans’ natural cognitive navigation process. So, how do we incorporate visual landmarks into mobile wayfinding applications? Simple: we use photos!


A method called Photo Landmark Navigation is a more effective technique for indoor mobile wayfinding. Like GPS navigation, it leverages graphing algorithms to generate optimized pathways from one point of interest to the next – think “main entrance to NICU.” The user is presented a narrative sequence of photos showing their surrounding building hallways, rich with design features that serve as visual landmarks. As users reach each new visual landmark, they simply swipe or scroll to the next picture, revealing the next set of landmarks to walk toward.


Unique Hospital Design Means Better Digital Wayfinding


This is where the physical environment of a healthcare campus impacts digital wayfinding, and vice versa. A healthcare facility rich with visual landmarks, unique design features, and noteworthy points of interest makes a great candidate for a wayfinding solution like Photo Landmark Navigation. There are ample visual markers to help users clearly see where they are, and where they are headed. We’ve all visited healthcare facilities with the same paint color lining the multi-floor, multi-building, large campus walls – it’s hard to tell where you are or where to go. With well designed facilities, though, Photo Landmark Navigation works best, because it draws on the natural human instinct to use distinctive physical landmarks to navigate. Seeing those landmark photos on a smartphone screen signals that the user is on the right path. And, in older hospitals with updated designs, periodic additions, and tricky intersections, the same is true: Photo Landmark Navigation solves for wayfinding pain points no matter the setting, because it utilizes existing landmarks as an effective tool for navigation.


At Vail Health Hospital, in Vail Colorado, patients, visitors, and staff have access to a digital wayfinding solution called Eyedog, which uses Photo Landmark Navigation to deliver clear pedestrian directions to users. The solution, designed to eliminate common (and often overlooked) challenges around indoor navigation, enhances the patient experience by providing intuitive walking directions that resolve problems that often cause stress for the entire community, before they arise.


Great digital wayfinding meets consumers where they are, both physically and technologically. At Vail Health Hospital, the Eyedog digital wayfinding solution provides intuitive pedestrian directions that acknowledge the fact that our digital and physical environments have merged. This specific initiative provides effective and efficient digital wayfinding, because it utilizes familiar digital elements that fit seamlessly into the patient experience, ensuring that patients, visitors, and staff can focus on the task at hand, rather than the logistics of finding their way. The Eyedog solution works well at Vail Health Hospital because it eliminates concerns about the fail-points that commonly accompany other types of digital wayfinding, with third party dependencies.


An example of how Photo Landmark Navigation can resolve common challenges associated with digital wayfinding in the healthcare setting, Vail Health Hospital effectively utilizes unique hospital design features as the groundwork for great pedestrian directions via Eyedog Photo Landmark Navigation, merging the physical design elements with an empathetic technology solution.


Changes to the Physical Environment Can Create Confusion


Frequent changes and updates to the physical environment of healthcare facilities are inevitable; updates are a necessary and exciting part of keeping the hospital relevant, competitive, and well-fit to serve the needs of its community. But, those design changes introduce the potential for hidden difficulties for staff and patients, particularly those who are returning patients experiencing the changes in a facility they have visited before: changes to the environment can cause unexpected obstacles in an already turbulent experience. Change is difficult, and clear communication is a key way to reduce the impact of such change. Amid changes in a healthcare facility, Photo Landmark Navigation provides clear communications that extend beyond basic walking directions. Because of the frictionless and intuitive nature of such directions, they can drastically reduce the stress and anxiety felt while navigating confusing healthcare facilities.


Because of the nature of hospital growth, many facilities opt to add or grow in phases. Adding to existing, often older buildings can create confusing, difficult-to-navigate building landscapes; signage is just one piece of a complex puzzle required to effectively provide directions. Staff, who are also learning to navigate a new facility, often find themselves responsible for helping patients to navigate, as well, taking their time and attention from other duties and responsibilities to provide directions. With renovation comes confusion and stress for those working to navigate unfamiliar facilities.


And, for brand new patients, there is an inherent feeling of stress that accompanies navigating an unfamiliar facility. Photo Landmark Navigation is so effective and efficient in all of these settings because it combines high resolution photos of the campus with directional arrows and written directions, designed to help users navigate, regardless of their familiarity with the campus. Because users see on their smartphone screen their exact, current surroundings, a building’s confusing landscape, or out-of-date signage does not negatively impact the effectiveness of the directions.


Attention is Valuable

Photo Landmark Navigation gives patients and visitors intuitive access to effective indoor wayfinding that does not require a lot of attention to use; there are few barriers to entry, enabling successful wayfinding that can reduce the stress and anxiety commonly associated with navigating a new (or changing) healthcare facility. With the option to view a personalized photo route ahead of an appointment, users find a sense of control within their clinical experience.


Enhancing existing wayfinding systems, Photo Landmark Navigation works without requiring any hardware, making it quick to deploy and affordable to maintain. Photos obviate the need for indoor positioning, thereby removing the need for beacons, which are expensive to install and maintain. Such a digital wayfinding solution allows healthcare systems to capitalize on the opportunities afforded by offering an app-less mobile wayfinding solution, dramatically increasing the likelihood of usage and adoption. Instead of only appealing to those users who have taken the time and attention to download an app (likely a tiny percentage of all visitors), you can now offer mobile wayfinding to any visitor with a smartphone. Photo Landmark Navigation technology is unique in that it is complex behind the scenes, but incredibly simple for healthcare systems and their patients, making it manageable and maintainable for everyone involved.


And, we can’t forget that Photo Landmark Navigation is designed to be an addition to traditional wayfinding methods. Effective indoor wayfinding is multifaceted; Photo Landmark Navigation presents directions that use digital technology, but also leans on effective signage, healthcare design, volunteer & staff participation, and community engagement to successfully improve indoor wayfinding woes.


Put simply, Photo Landmark Navigation alleviates the challenges often associated with indoor digital navigation, while spotlighting the unique and beautiful design of a healthcare facility, saving on costs, and improving the patient experience. A creative twist on the driving navigation we all know, love, and rely on, Photo Landmark Navigation is the simple, frictionless, intuitive solution for navigating within complex healthcare facilities. Together with signage, design, and digital wayfinding, healthcare systems can take their digital transformation and patient engagement strategies to the next level, leaning on healthcare design to promise an improved experience for the entire healthcare community.


About Eyedog.US

Eyedog.US offers the world’s leading indoor and campus-based pedestrian wayfinding solution. Using photo landmark navigation technologies, Eyedog.US offers a human-centered wayfinding approach that promises to reduce stress and anxiety associated with navigating a complex campus. Learn more at

Don’t be Caught Red Handed – 2023 Healthcare Regulatory Hot Topics

By: Christina Olivarria, MSPM, PMP, LBBP, HACP, Director of Business Development and Communications, Yellow Brick Consulting Inc

I think it’s fair to say the lion’s share of us working in healthcare did not get into this field to learn about regulations, compliance, and accreditation. In fact, some of you may even cringe at the thought of developing policies, reviewing scopes of services, or verifying that staff files are up-to-date and inspection ready. Let’s face it, as much as we may dislike the headache they often bring, healthcare regulations are a necessary component to maintaining our healthcare system. As healthcare professionals, we are responsible for keeping abreast of the latest regulatory trends so that we always bring our best, most informed self to whatever setting may need that information.

As a non-clinician, I have challenged myself to become more educated about the various aspects of regulatory compliance. When activating a new healthcare facility, surveys and site inspections are often the final hurdles project teams must overcome before Day 1 Activation. Each year, as part of my regulatory education, I work with our Regulatory Specialist, ask probing questions, attend webinars, and do lots of reading. Below is a summary of prevalent regulatory hot topics across the country.

Behavioral Health Patient Risk Assessments

The CMS Hospital Condition of Participation, “Patient’s Rights” (42 C.F.R. §482.13(c)(2)) establishes the rights of all patients to receive care in a safe setting and is intended to provide protection for a patient’s emotional health and safety as well as his or her physical safety.

The Joint Commission identified patient safety risks as one of the goals listed in the 2023 National Patient Safety Goals. Specifically, reducing the risk of suicide through thorough environmental risk assessments is a top priority of the TJC and CMS, and many healthcare organizations, particularly as Behavioral Health, becomes a more prevalent topic. Evaluating ligature risks within healthcare settings where high-risk patient populations are cared for should be a top priority of healthcare leaders to mitigate the risk of self-harm. Currently, only psychiatric hospitals and hospitals psychiatric units are mandated to be designed to be ligature resistant. Those of us in healthcare understand behavioral health patients are treated in almost every type of healthcare environment, so it is important to be aware of potential risks and have the plan to minimize them.

Some recommendations include:

  • Evaluation of the physical environment through a standardized risk assessment tool
  • Ensure all patients are being screened for suicidal ideation
  • Develop and maintain policies and procedures should a patient be identified at risk for suicide, including continuous monitoring and staff safety
  • Develop and provide training to staff
  • Follow policies and procedures related to discharge counseling and follow-up care

Workplace Violence Prevention

The data paints a bleak picture.

  • Healthcare and Social Services workers are five times more likely to experience workplace violence
  • Workplace violence comprises 73% of all nonfatal workplace injuries
  • 80% of serious violent incidents reported in healthcare settings were caused by interactions with patients
  • The “healthcare and social assistance” sector had 7.8 cases of serious workplace violence per 10,000 full-time employees compared to other large sectors that all had fewer than two cases per 10,000 full-time employees

As a result of this problem riddling our healthcare teams, the Joint Commission issued new and revised workplace violence prevention standards on January 1, 2022. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) plans for a Small Business Regulatory Enforcement Fairness Act (SBREFA) review of rulemaking for workplace violence prevention in health care and social assistance to ensure all healthcare providers are compliant.

The Joint Commission’s glossary defines workplace violence as “An act or threat occurring at the workplace that can include any of the following: verbal, nonverbal, written, or physical aggression; threatening, intimidating, harassing, or humiliating words or actions; bullying; sabotage; sexual harassment; physical assaults; or other behaviors of concern involving staff, licensed practitioners, patients, or visitors.” Healthcare leaders are now faced with the arduous task of incorporating these new standards into existing policies and procedures.

The new prevention standards are comprised of the following components:

  • Management of safety and security risks – Conduct an annual analysis of the effectiveness of the workplace prevention program.
  • Collection of information to monitor environmental conditions – Establish a process to monitor, investigate, and report incidents, including but not limited to injuries to patients and staff, occupational illnesses, safety and security risks, hazardous materials and waste spills, and utility system problems/failures
  • Coordination of ongoing staff education and training – Establish training modules and content for various staff types, including at the time of hire and on an annual/as-needed basis. Content should include roles and responsibilities, de-escalation techniques, and reporting methods.
  • Maintenance of a culture of safety and quality – Develop policies and procedures that address workplace violence. Evaluate key performance indicators that can be established to monitor incidents. Ensure support resources are available to staff.

Although this regulatory requirement has left many organizations scrambling, there are several incentives to adopting policies and procedures addressing workplace violence, including staff-burnout prevention, minimizing workers’ compensation claims, and reducing the need to backfill staff who are out due to injury. To access the Joint Commission resource toolkit, click here.

Disaster and Emergency Preparedness

The Emergency Preparedness CoP at §482.15(d)(1) contains requirements for hospitals to train staff and to have policies and procedures aimed at protecting both their workforce and their patients.

In the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic and its impacts still reverberating through the healthcare system, it is unsurprising to see increased scrutiny on emergency preparedness. The Joint Commission has highlighted Emergency Management as key safety topic, focusing on four main areas – preparedness, response, recovery, and mitigation.

Preparedness – Conduct a hazard vulnerability analysis utilizing an all-hazards approach, considering internal and external threats to the organization. Develop an Emergency Operations Plan that addresses identified threats. Validate systems required to support critical services and develop plan to maintain in the event of an emergency.

Response – Develop policies and procedures to support an Emergency Action Plan. Conduct staff training to support outlined policies and procedures to ensure teams respond as planned. Ensure communication and roles and responsibilities are outlined.

Recovery –  Address how and when the hospital will return to full functionality after an emergency or disaster. Consider family reunification and patient identification procedures for unidentified adults and unaccompanied children.

Mitigation – Conduct exercises to test emergency response, including fire evacuation drills, active shooter exercises, mass casualty events, and technology ransomware attacks. Evaluate responses and identify areas of opportunity and gaps in planned responses.

Hospitals must ensure that emergency services will be available when the next disaster occurs while prioritizing investments that will build the healthcare delivery system of tomorrow. For more information, please click here for the Joint Commission R3 Report.

End of the COVID-19 National Emergency and Public Health Emergency (PHE)

Throughout the pandemic emergency, declarations allowed extra funding to be utilized to maintain Medicaid coverage for millions of Americans. With this funding being pulled this year, it is unclear how this unwinding will impact the healthcare system and the millions of Americans who may lose access to insurance come May 2023. Emergency declarations enacted during the Covid-19 pandemic will end, which may result in adjusting ratios, retraining staff onboarded during this period, and adjusting billing for services currently covered under the national emergency declarations.

Organizations should conduct an internal analysis of practices and procedures to prepare for this unwinding period to prioritize the next steps. Communication and coordination with community resources are recommended to ensure patients have the most up-to-date information regarding available benefits and resources.

Although not the most exciting of healthcare topics, regulatory and healthcare compliance education should be a goal of every healthcare professional. What I have found most helpful is understanding what I need to know to be successful in my role and also who my subject matter experts are in the event that I need to consult with them on a topic outside my realm of expertise. Plenty of free webinars and articles are available on the various regulatory agency websites. Should you encounter a situation in which you need consultation, reach out to a consultant that specializes in healthcare. Many are happy to point folks in the right direction. Best of luck on your regulatory educational journey, and be sure to keep these hot topics on your radar in 2023.

The Opportunity for Continuous Improvement in Activation and Transition Planning

BY: Rich Clough and Stefan LaBere, ECG Management Consultants

In Brief: When the excitement of moving into a new facility fades, will your organization fall back on old processes or continue to pursue new efficiencies?

Transitioning to a new and upgraded space presents an opportunity for healthcare organizations to reset and “reinvent” operations to realize new efficiencies. But a new facility alone won’t improve a department’s processes or change its culture. The excitement and optimism that accompany a move to a new space are fleeting; leaders need to promote a culture of continuous improvement to ensure that the advantages of a new space aren’t squandered by a gradual return to the old way of doing things.

The seeds for that culture are planted at the beginning of an activation and transition planning (ATP) project by defining the vision and setting guiding principles for operational excellence. These elements serve as the North Star for all planning activities—they are integrated into project materials, reviewed at key meetings, and championed by executives.

Creating the new facility’s vision and guiding principles demonstrates the organization’s willingness to embrace change and support frontline staff, which in turn encourages department leaders to adopt a continuous improvement mindset during operations planning activities. When done successfully, this enables departmental staff involved in operations planning activities to get creative and reevaluate how their processes can and should change.

Maintaining Momentum

As the opening date of the new facility comes to pass, it is always accompanied by a flurry of excitement and various activities to welcome patients to the new care setting. It can be easy for staff to return to their old habits and processes once operations in the new space reach the new steady state, and the activities completed and ideas shared during operations planning can be at risk of being forgotten.

Often, workarounds and other deviations from the agreed-upon plans prior to opening can become permanent fixtures, which is less than ideal. It is crucial that new or refined processes developed during operations planning, as well as the defined vision and guiding principles, are continually reinforced through training—not only prior to the first patient, but routinely and consistently. This can be achieved through a combination of simulation exercises or in-person training activities to maintain standard workflows and protocols; perhaps more importantly, this can enable the continuous improvement mindset to persist.

Organizational leadership must encourage and enable departmental leaders and frontline staff to utilize existing forums (e.g., daily huddles, regular staff meetings) to reinforce these principles and best practices. Additionally, maintaining select committees established during operations planning (e.g., Opening Readiness Committee) for three to six months after opening day—the stabilization period—can further supplement these efforts.

Sustaining the Mindset

ATP projects typically involve the transition or expansion of existing departments into new spaces. It can often be difficult to capture and sustain process improvements in legacy spaces, so transitioning into a new facility presents a significant opportunity for service lines to “do things the right way.” Reinforcing the new facility’s guiding principles through training and maintaining forums established during operations planning are effective means of sustaining a mindset of continuous improvement. However, it is crucial that these elements are not targeted at one or a few select services in the new facility—these must be broadly applicable to all services and ingrained in the fabric of the entire building. All stakeholders must not only have the ability to contribute, but also feel empowered to do so.

As such, it is incumbent upon organizational and service line leadership to adapt to change and identify new methods for encouraging the adoption of a continuous improvement mindset. How this can be achieved will vary between organizations, but establishing some ongoing structure or process to sustain this cultural change (e.g., creating formal committees comprised of facility service line leaders, conducting facility town hall events) is essential to realize long-term results. Ultimately, organizational leadership must want staff to adopt this mindset, and identify and capitalize on the opportunities available to do so.

Accelerating Innovation in Healthcare Design…

by Dr. Wayne Ruga

Innovation is integral with healthcare – throughout the history of healthcare, it has continuously evolved in its effectiveness through progressive innovation.  What is the source of this innovation, who does it, where does it come from, and – perhaps you find yourself wondering, at times – what can I do to contribute my own innovation to healthcare?  If you do wonder this, please keep reading.

The Symposium has been the leading vanguard for innovation in healthcare design since its very beginning.  In fact, Sara Marberry edited a book called Innovations in Healthcare Design that draws from the most innovative presentations during the first five Symposia.  If you read the ‘Table of Contents’ (posted on Amazon), you will appreciate that many of these select presentations are as innovative today – and impactful in their design influence – as they were more than three decades ago.

Now, thirty-six years after the First Symposium, healthcare design innovation is no less important, now, than it was then.  With the current challenges in our world, for example – shifting and aging populations, environmental concerns, new strains and variants of resistant pathogens, rising energy costs, supply chain breakdowns, and shortages of qualified available labor – the urgent need for accelerated healthcare design innovation is probably even more important, today, than it ever was before.

What – precisely – is ‘innovation’, and how can it be distinguished from other types of advances in healthcare?  From my own personal point of view – being a serial innovator – an innovation must fulfil two requirements.  First, it must make a systemic improvement – this means that it introduces something new, something that never existed before, something that changes the status quo and introduces a new way.

The second requirement is that it must be sustainable – by this, I mean that the improvement is not a flash-in-the-pan, flavor-of-the-month trend, fad, or fashion.  Rather, by sustainable, I mean that the improvement continues to improve over time.

The Symposium is an ideal example of an innovation – nothing like it ever existed before – it changed the pattern.  And, it has sustained the test of time, with tens of thousands of attendees participating in it from across the US and every corner of the globe – carrying its pattern-changing messages back into their own communities in support of making their own local improvements.

As the stories about innovation are told – including even many of the presentations we hear at the Symposium – they tell us about the ‘what’.  Most often, these stories describe ‘what’ the innovation is, or ‘what’ it does.  Rarely, if ever, does the story tell us about the ‘how’ – what was the source of this new idea, and how did it come into the awareness of the innovator?

In keeping with the original inspiration that led to the creation of the Symposium – that is, to initiate an intervention that is an ongoing and ever-expanding quest into the inquiry of ‘how can we design the environment to improve lives?’ – this year’s Pre-Conference Workshop is a candid, truth-telling exploration into the sources of innovation from acclaimed pioneers of innovation – each having made recognized improvements to the healthcare status quo that are both systemic and sustainable.

The ‘what’ story that each one of these innovators will present is breath-taking…but – even more importantly – each innovator will also explain ‘how’ their innovation came into their awareness, and how they each gave their innovation the breath of life, to live on in the world and make a sustainable improvement.  The purpose of this unconcealing of the ‘how’ is to provide workshop attendees with the opportunity to look at the wide range range of these ‘how’ stories, to demystify them, and to introduce ways of knowing that attendees can use to make their own discoveries with.

Every innovator goes on a unique journey of exploration and discovery.  Sometimes much of this journey is extremely unproductive – sometimes it might even take years to arrive at a clear discovery – other times, this journey can occur in a fraction of a nanosecond, with vivid and compelling clarity.  It’s impossible to predict, in advance, what the journey will be like – or, even whether or not it will be a productive journey.

The good news, though, is that there are some common characteristics of how we can prepare ourselves to make innovative new discoveries.  The purpose of the Pre-Conference Workshop, at this year’s Symposium, is to enable ourselves to become acquainted with these characteristics, and to clearly articulate them, with the goal of priming the pump and accelerating a new generation of Symposium inspired innovators.  Appropriately, then, this year’s Pre-Conference Workshop has the title of Breakthrough Innovation: Exploring and Learning ‘HOW I CAN DO IT, TOO’.

The structure of the Pre-Conference Workshop has been designed to cultivate the conditions for learning ‘how’ to innovate.  These conditions include:

  1. Specific presentations by accomplished innovators that focus on explaining their ‘how’;
  2. Breakout sessions that enable small discussion groups with attendee-selected presenters;
  3. A ‘speed-dating’ format of the breakout sessions to provide opportunities to have small group discussions with more than one presenter; and
  4. A closing Networking Reception to enable informal one-on-one conversations.

Registration is currently open for this unique Symposium event. This one-time event is a special opportunity for you to have a direct learning experience from those leading pioneers who have already achieved acclaim for their contributions to healthcare, and put your foot on the path that begins your own personal journey of discovery.  Seats are limited, and are available on a first-come, first-served basis.  I encourage you to register quickly – and – I am looking forward to our time together, then.

If you have questions or concerns about this workshop, please feel welcome to be in touch.  I can be reached at:  [email protected] .


Improving the Micro-Hospital Model

Renee Kubesh, AIA, EDAC | Senior Project Manager and Principal | EUA

Healthcare providers increasingly turn to micro-hospitals to deliver quality care to their communities. These fully licensed, 24/7 facilities can help patients with myriad medical issues – including critical care – within a fraction of the space of their full-sized counterparts, typically less than 20,000 square feet.

After more than a decade of operational micro-hospitals, we’ve seen recurring themes in how providers adapt them to meet their evolving needs. We also had the privilege of recently conducting post-occupancy evaluations for two buildings. We offer these top findings as lessons and recommendations for sustaining the success of this healthcare delivery model.

Finding the Right Location

Micro-hospitals can offer convenient and accessible community care when strategically positioned relative to a greater healthcare system’s network. Many existing micro-hospitals are in relatively urban areas. Still, a micro-hospital could be located to reach underserved areas or to enter new markets, even if other providers are already present.

Despite a robust network of hospitals and clinics in the United States, many communities – especially economically disadvantaged and rural areas – lack adequate access to healthcare. Some healthcare systems see micro-hospitals as a solution and a mutually beneficial arrangement: the community gets access to nearby care, and the provider introduces new patients to their system with a relatively small investment. Also, higher-risk patients benefit from connecting to a specialty care network while receiving local, stabilizing, pre-treatment care.

Staffing is vital to this approach. As these facilities are introduced in underserved areas, the municipality and health system have a joint responsibility to foster strong relationships among their constituents and improve local amenities, making the region desirable to medical practitioners as a place to not only work but also live and be part of the community.

Other providers leverage their micro-hospitals to support a “spoke and hub” model of care. Staff triages incoming patients to determine the best care location based on patient needs, staffing and bed availability. This approach works well when assets like a robust network of physicians and access to ambulatory and acute care are already in place. It is also a valuable model for municipalities seeking to revitalize their city centers, as proximity to healthcare is critical in driving downtown living and business development.

Both approaches to locating micro-hospitals have typically assumed the facility will operate as a stand-alone service. But we’ve noticed a trend of using micro-hospitals as anchors for medical office buildings or specialty care services. Patient-centered care and patient satisfaction are enhanced through convenient access to pharmacies, laboratories, radiology departments, ambulatory surgery or specialty care. This allows the micro-hospital to remain true to its core model – lean and efficient – while being able to plug into other services.

Some healthcare systems integrate their micro-hospitals to support a “spoke and hub” delivery model, allowing them to transfer patients, if necessary, to main-hub hospitals or other in-network facilities that offer specialized services.

Integrating Specialty Care

Our healthcare clients increasingly ask for micro-hospitals with more integration and flexibility. They are rightfully concerned about licensing requirements, local patient population needs, and incorporating appropriate demographic specialty care components.

The challenge is meeting those requirements without forfeiting the efficiencies of the micro-hospital model. We often caution our clients from over-engineering or over-programming; the micro-hospitals do not need to meet every patient’s needs all the time. They will still be effective, as staff will attend to patients that require immediate care while stabilizing and transferring others as needed. Over-engineering these facilities can increase the break-even point, slow patient throughput, and hurt patient satisfaction and employee engagement.

If done strategically, it is possible to integrate specialty care while still realizing a micro-hospital’s benefits. For example, one client considered pairing cancer care with the traditional emergency department and inpatient model. With cancer care as a top revenue draw – and considering the distance from the main hospital – this made sense for the provider.

To integrate specialty care effectively and preserve the micro-hospital’s efficiency, healthcare systems should identify the specific components of care early in the building’s design process and review them with the local authority having jurisdiction over the project. The facility may require separate entries, clear identification of dedicated versus shared support areas and code-delineated smoke zones.

In our post-occupancy evaluation, we found it is better to offer radiology as both an inpatient and outpatient service. Radiology for inpatient service is required for licensing, but offering it for outpatient services will increase patient access and lead to a greater return on the high-investment imaging equipment. Future micro-hospital designs should maintain separate access pathways for each type of service to maintain efficiency and reassure patients that they are receiving the care they registered for in the appropriate location.

Supporting Staff and Cross-Training

Micro-hospitals are intended to operate on a lean and efficient staffing model where doctors, nurses, and aides cross-train to provide care to the maximum ability of their licenses. This is a functional approach as long as the staff still find value in their work. Often, burnout is not the result of staff doing too much work but rather from losing touch with the job they once loved.

We’ve heard from staff that they want more time at a patient’s bedside, which allows them to own the patient’s care from arrival to discharge. While it might seem counterintuitive, in a micro-hospital setting, one nurse should provide services ranging from meals to breathing treatments, all at the patient’s bedside. The variety of work counteracts nurse burnout and increases patient satisfaction by developing a deeper relationship with one caregiver.

The hospital’s design should support staff cross-training. A centrally located nurses’ station adjacent to the medication room, lab and storage areas allows staff to help the emergency and inpatient departments during low census counts. At busier times, when both departments may have dedicated teams, the station encourages communication between them so that staff can assist each other.

A centralized nurses’ station allows staff to see what’s happening around them and ultimately deliver better care. We learned from our post-occupancy evaluation that inpatient waiting rooms must be within view of, and ideally adjacent to, the station so nurses can oversee and communicate easily with family members.

Placing the nurses’ station and other support spaces in the center of the micro-hospital makes it easier for staff to respond to patients in all departments.

Incubators for New Ideas and Systems

There is little doubt that micro-hospitals will continue to adopt more technology, and the patient experience will become more virtual. Many providers are leaning into their micro-hospitals as technology incubators because it is easier and more cost-effective to test new technology and workflows in a 10-bed rather than a 100-bed facility.

For example, consider how micro-hospitals might embrace a new registration and check-in experience. Today, patients walk into an emergency department, and the first person they see is likely a receptionist. In the future, this position will be handled by an automated kiosk that scans the patient’s identification and directs them to the appropriate waiting area. Or they may bypass the kiosk altogether; instead, there might be an automated secure door system with advanced wayfinding to support patient self-rooming. The point is that providers are much more likely to try this technology on the micro-hospital scale – with minimal investment – before implementing it in their larger facilities.

Micro-hospitals are also apt testing grounds for improved mechanical systems. We learned from our post-occupancy evaluation that more rooms should have systems that can flex to negative pressure, allowing maintenance staff to respond to potential future pandemics without re-tooling mechanical equipment.

Looking Ahead

Micro-hospitals have a bright future. The model has become increasingly attractive to healthcare systems and patients due to rising construction and healthcare costs. As we continuously look to improve the state of healthcare in our country – whether through enhanced access to care, better support for staff, or new technology – micro-hospitals are fertile ground to test and implement ideas in an already innovative and efficient model.

About the Author: Renee Kubesh believes that architecture makes a difference in people’s lives and is excited to be a part of that dynamic in healthcare. Her healthcare environments empower staff to realize their potential, welcome family and visitors in a relaxing atmosphere, and help patients take control of their treatment and wellness. Over her 30-year-plus career, she has led the creation of spaces that can flex to future needs. She values an evidence-based design approach of understanding and respecting what has worked in the past while making the design and construction process engaging and fun for everyone involved.

About EUA: EUA is best known for designing environments that elevate people’s potential. The respected 115-year-old firm specializes in several markets, including education, workplace, healthcare, senior living, student housing, mixed-use, entertainment, and science and technology. More than 250+ employees in Milwaukee, Madison, Green Bay, Denver and Atlanta demonstrate an unparalleled commitment to the markets, communities and clients they serve. For additional information, please visit the firm’s website at


Media Contact:
Sophia Lapat
[email protected]


Attendees Enjoyed Exhibitor Innovations, Inspiring Keynotes, Engaging Sessions by
Industry Leaders & Networking Connections, September 27-29, 2022

Long Beach, CA (October 10, 2022) – Last week, thousands of manufacturers, architects, designers, engineers, contractors and healthcare leaders convened at The Long Beach Convention Center for the 35th annual Healthcare Facilities Symposium and Expo, HFSE, one of the country’s largest shows dedicated to healthcare design and facilities, energized attendees, exhibitors, speakers and partners with compelling Keynote Presentations, 100+ Exhibitors, Conference Sessions, Networking Events and much more.

“On the heels of a successful 2021 Healthcare Facilities Symposium & Expo in December, 2021, we were hoping for an even bigger, and more robust 2022 edition and it exceeded our expectations with incredible growth across all facets including attendance and exhibitor participation,” said Jenabeth Ferguson, Vice President, Symposium Director. “The excitement at this year’s event was palpable, as manufacturers, architects, designers, and healthcare leaders experienced unparalleled access to industry education, cutting edge new healthcare design products and services, and networking opportunities.”

Robust Conference

The Symposium featured three jam-packed days of educational and insightful Sessions and Keynotes by top industry leaders. The sessions spanned multiple topics including Pediatrics, Behavioral Health, and Community Health. This year’s keynotes included Liz Ogbu, Founder + Principal, Studio O, Oleksii Iaremenko, Deputy Minister for European Integration, Ministry of Health of Ukraine, and closing Keynote, Jessica Gutierrez-Rodriguez, Executive Director, Facilities Management & Operations, University of Texas Health San Antonio.


“I always enjoy attending HFSE because I feel that there is more content catered to hospital executives and planning, design and construction teams. It has been valuable in connecting with peer institutions to share knowledge and expertise, especially in such a challenging post-pandemic environment. There were many great perspectives and targeted strategies shared in presentations and owner-focused meetings that I’ll definitely leverage going forward. This year’s conference was especially great, to reconnect and see so many familiar faces and walk away feeling better about our industry as a whole.” Sean Collins, AIA, LEED AP, Executive Director, Facilities Planning, Design and Construction, Cedars-Sinai


“This year’s HFSE conference was full of heartfelt inspiration.  As we continue to provide healing environments in healthcare, we are more open as professionals to lead with our hearts.  The utilization and application of generative space will continue to be at the forefront of our actions.” Jessica Gutierrez-Rodriguez, Executive Director, Facilities Management & Operations, Facilities Management Department University of Texas Health San Antonio


Expo Hall

The Expo Hall featured the most innovative products and services in the healthcare facilities industry from some of the country’s top manufacturers and providers. Many exhibitors launched new products at HFSE, getting in front of important decision makers from healthcare facilities, architecture and design firms. The Expo Floor also featured two Design Solutions Theaters where the design team galleries came alive with 15 minute mini-presentations.


“The Healthcare Facilities Symposium and Expo offers the opportunity to connect with healthcare system executives, facilities managers, architects, and designers and gives exhibitors a chance to highlight their products and make new connections.” Nick Nichols, Director of Business Development, Skyline Art


“HFSE provides an incredibly professional venue that brings everyone together around the challenges and opportunities tied to healthcare design and is a premier networking opportunity for a diverse audience. Most importantly, they provide unparalleled support to their exhibitors. We will be back next year!” Raffi Baltayan, Marketing Manager, Unicel Architectural Corp.


“I was very pleased to represent PAC/Envac Automated Waste and Linen Removal at HFSE 2022 in Long Beach, CA. The event was intimate (and fun!) and really encouraged people to meet, learn, share, consult, help, and exchange ideas.  We made several valuable connections with whom we will develop long-term mutually beneficial relationships.  Thank you to all who helped plan and organize this wonderful event!” Lynne Klosowski, Marketing Specialist, Precision AirConvoy Corporation


“SwiftWall chose to exhibit at HFSE 2022 because of the show’s attraction to the healthcare industry’s elected clientele. From facility managers, architects, designers, planners, GC’s and manufacturers, we knew the right mix would be in attendance. SwiftWall’s 20×20 booth was a great way to showcase our product in real time. FLEX Wall is our newest product for the healthcare industry and we wanted our launch to be felt with dramatic entrance at HFSE.” BettyLynn Abercrombie, Account Executive, SwiftWall


“I am so glad that I decided to participate in the 2022 Healthcare Facilities Symposium & Expo in Long Beach, California! This was our first time participating and it exceeded all our expectations. The entire event was run smoothly by the HFSE team who were incredibly organized, quick to respond to all questions, and made the process easy. We were excited about the traffic to our Expo Booth. I would say to anyone thinking about participating-do it, you will not be disappointed!” Jim Carey, Vice President, West, Krug


Symposium Distinction Awards

The annual program recognized design teams, projects and individuals who have made a profound contribution to the healthcare design industry. In addition, it recognized the best and most innovative new products within the healthcare design & construction industry. This year’s winners included: Boston Children’s Hospital Hale Family Building (Team Award), Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe Healing Clinic (User-Centered Award), Hoag On-Demand Care & Innovation Center (Adaptive Reuse Award), Tim Laboranti, Principal of Healthcare Design, BDA Architects (Individual Award), Stephen Parker, Senior Associate, Stantec (George Pressler Under 40 Award), AkitaBox Facility Condition Assessment Software (Most Innovative Product), Altro Tegulis (Most Sustainable Product) and Interface Desert Scapes™ (Architect’s Choice). New this year, the Founder’s Award was awarded to Francis Murdock Pitts, Principal of architecture+.


“I was humbled to be selected as this year’s George Pressler Under 40 Award recipient and celebrating with my Stantec colleagues from across the world who came here to HFSE. It was a wonderful experience to collaborate with my peers, consult with clients and congratulate everyone on the great designs on display throughout the conference.” Stephen Parker, AIA, NCARB, Senior Associate, Behavioral + Mental Health Planner Stantec Architecture


Networking Events and Raffle

HFSE is the place to mix and mingle with new and old friends at daily events including the Grand Opening of Exhibit Floor, Ice Cream Social, Happy Hour and the ever-popular Raffle. This year the Raffle raised $14,000 for Long Beach’s Algalita.


“Algalita was honored to participate as a charity partner at this year’s Healthcare Facilities Symposium & Expo. Using the raffle proceeds we received from the event, we will invest more than $14,000 in our environmental education programs that reach thousands of teachers and students every year. Thank you for supporting our work towards a world where plastic pollution is unthinkable!” Katie Allen, Executive Director, Algalita

For more information about the 2023 Healthcare Facilities Symposium & Expo (September 19-21, 2023), visit


The mission of the Healthcare Facilities Symposium & Expo is to create a multi-disciplinary environment that inspires you to evoke change and the advancement of a better delivery of healthcare through the physical space. Competitors, clients, and colleagues come together as friends to collaborate, share research, hear fresh perspectives and participate in the ever-changing conversation of your industry.


Champion Your Culture Strategies for Building and Maintaining a Purpose-Driven, Gimmick-Free Culture

By Robins & Morton Division Manager Eric Groat

Whether you call 2022 the “Great Resignation” or the “Great Reshuffle,” team culture has never been more important than it is now, and with good reason.

Finding qualified and committed people at every level is one of the key challenges facing the construction industry as the labor market remains extremely competitive. At the same time, our clients’ continued emphasis on speed to market, set against volatile supply chains, puts even more emphasis on teamwork.

According to a recent study by MIT, a toxic company culture is the strongest predictor of employee attrition and is 10 times more important than compensation when predicting turnover. The study identified toxic cultures by several elements that included lack of diversity, equity and inclusion; disrespect; unethical behavior; and failure to recognize and reward performance.

All those warning signs of a “bad culture” may seem easily identifiable, but are they as easy to spot in our everyday interactions? More importantly, do we recognize them in time to facilitate change within a team?

To answer this question, our first impulse may be to review the lagging indicators first. In the construction industry, these typically include the critical outcomes, such as staying on-target with the schedule, budget, profitability or employee retention. While these are benchmarks of a successful project, they’re not the first signs of trouble within a culture.

Instead, we should be focusing on leading indicators – Is there trust among our team members? Are we engaged in collaborating? How do we handle unethical behavior? Are team members recognized for their contributions and performances?

When we pivot toward proactively identifying indicators of a healthy or toxic culture, we’re able to determine the proper actions to either maintain that culture or reverse the negative changes we see. However, no matter its state, culture requires work.

While every industry and business is different, there are five red flags that I’ve found most universal in identifying the early stages of a toxic culture:

  1. Lack of communication. It’s alarming when two people who are on the same team are working from wildly different sets of information or have a completely different understanding of a goal or outcome. It’s a clear signal that there’s a broken link in the management structure, and that the team doesn’t understand their objective. In addition to chaotic and unproductive exchanges, not understanding desired outcomes also stifles innovation, which limits the potential of the project or work product.
  2. Lack of decision-making. Decisions fuel all forward progress. Developing a clear structure of decision makers and processes to tackle particularly challenging questions are foundational for a functional working relationship. When we see environments that don’t encourage timely responses to critical decisions, we could pull back the curtain and find dysfunctional relationships with managers, fear of company leadership, and team members who are unclear about the mission of their organization. Although no employee wants to make an error, positive and learning-focused environments recognize that people are fallible and will make errors. Our reaction to those errors directly reflects our culture.
  3. Withholding information or support. Not all information is fit for public consumption – whether it’s unconfirmed, too detailed for most, or simply irrelevant – but there’s a difference between filtering and withholding information. Filtering is done with good intentions to provide a team member with the information they need and clarity to complete their task. Withholding information is adversarial, often used as an instrument to influence power dynamics. If a team member begins withholding information, it’s a warning sign that they don’t want to work together to solve a problem.
  4. No action taken as a result of feedback. Feedback is a necessity for improving any workplace or team environment. When people place their trust in a team and provide constructive feedback, it can be a vulnerable experience. Another sign of a toxic culture is expecting team members to enter that vulnerable place with no intention of addressing their concerns.
  5. No motivation to improve. The final sign of a toxic culture can be summarized into a single word: apathy. If there’s one thing we can be certain of, it’s that we’ll experience change – personally, professionally and often at an exponential pace. Without a motivation to improve, a culture will become stagnant, leading to dissatisfied and frustrated team members.

While some of these signs may sound familiar, the good news is that it’s never too late to course correct. Here are a few tactics that have been successful in my experience:

  1. Provide a platform for feedback. Creating a mechanism for feedback is the first step to building trust with your team. Provide several avenues for team feedback such as performance reviews for one-on-one conversations, team health assessments, and companywide people satisfaction surveys. No matter how the feedback is collected, holding ourselves accountable to be transparent about what we received and how we plan to address it is essential to maintaining culture.
  2. Get the right people in the room. When working to address cultural problems, we naturally gravitate to having hard conversations with those whom we already have the greatest rapport. While those conversations may serve as a great sounding board, they’re unlikely to result in meaningful change. Only when we engage everyone and commit to healthy conflict among the team members who can initiate changed behavior can we truly expect an improved outcome.
  3. Hire and promote emotionally intelligent leaders. People will always be any organization’s greatest resource and having leaders who can navigate interpersonal relationships will make the difference when facing a culture crisis. One way to support this within your teams is to ensure you’re providing growth opportunities, and the only way to know what that may look like for a team member is by getting to know them. Establish a review structure for all team members, ensuring every employee has a structured touchpoint with their manager, at least twice year. There are also specific mentorship programs within the company that can help them reach their professional goals. However, most team trust is built in the day-to-day conversations – it’s why we emphasize the importance of teambuilding activities. All of these elements will help you get to know the strengths of your existing team members, and you can build a strong management structure as a result.
  4. See red flags for what they are. It’s easy to categorize a challenging interaction or an undesirable outcome as a one-off, but harder to admit when it may be a sign of a more significant problem. However, we’re better positioned to tackle incremental change than an entire cultural shift. Surfacing an incident before it becomes a long-term issue is a proactive solution to reduce the red flags, one by one.
  5. Pursuing partnerships that are culturally aligned with your organization. Business can be a lot like marriage. The phrase “opposites attract” isn’t often the case – two married people may have different hobbies or social batteries, but it’s rare that they have a completely different value systems. It’s a similar quandary in construction, with numerous long-term project partnerships. Inevitably, there will be friction between teams that don’t share collaborative and transparent practices. Projects are at their best when teams share critical values. While every business partnership won’t be a perfect match, prioritizing working with companies that share fundamental cultural characteristics has a greater opportunity for success.

Although there is no one-size-fits-all approach to developing and maintaining culture, its building blocks are grounded in respect for people – respect for your employees, your business partners and your community. Using that as your culture’s guiding principle can assure a successful foundation for your team – no ping-pong table required.

Eric Groat is the Division Manager of Robins & Morton’s San Antonio office. He has more than 20 years of experience managing complex construction projects and is an advocate of Lean construction principles. Groat believes that an emphasis on culture, partnership and respect for people is key to revolutionizing the construction industry.

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