Healthcare representatives from both Henderson Building Solutions and Henderson Engineers recently attended Vanderbilt University’s Healthcare Summit and the American Society of Healthcare Engineers (ASHE) Annual Conferences. A wealth of information was shared, networking was back in practice, and we were excited to see our friends in person again. As you can imagine, discussions revolved around infrastructure, infectious disease control, and much more. We’ve sifted through the insights that were presented and picked out the most important trends and topics from both events for you here.


Vanderbilt Healthcare Symposium

Patients Drive Change – Consumers demand better access to care and a more simplistic experience. This has resulted in more ambulatory access in retail environments. Consumers also demand a simpler billing and financial experience. Often, there are too many payment layers and surprise bills because of the layers of providers (e.g., surgery center, doctor, and imaging may all bill separately). Consumers don’t need to see the layers; they just want one bill that’s predictable with as much transparency as possible. Payers, as well as acute care providers, recognize that they need to change or they will get left behind. One executive stated, “We need to bring care to patients wherever they are.” Another stated, “Healthcare consumption isn’t easy for patients.”

Acute Care Arena Trends – Hospitals recognize the need for acuity adaptable spaces. There is still a shortage of labor, and it is causing stress on caregivers. There seems to be a trend of merging academic research and patient care, which benefits both parties in lessons learned. Telehealth in acute care rooms allows for less interruption in patient rooms and promotes more rest for patients and better work environments for caregivers. Other technologies that promote less interruptions are voice controls that utilize Alexa or Siri, for instance. Hospitals continue to co-locate hotels on hospital campuses and rooms are equipped with telehealth technology. This results in less expensive pre-op and post-op recovery and better patient experience.

Vaccines Work – Data shows that vaccines are effective in keeping people out of the hospital. Unvaccinated people have a 1 in 30 chance of being hospitalized after contracting COVID-19. Vaccinated people have a 1 in 1 million chance of being hospitalized after contracting COVID-19. We as a nation need to do a better job at educating the public.

Lessons Can Be Learned from Other Industries – Utilize safer finishes, go cashless when possible, utilize touchless fixtures, promote guest confidence in your safety measures, know where your pinch points are for guests and mange guest flow, and encourage your staff whenever possible to let them know how well they’re doing during tough times.

Planning for the Next Pandemic – Get ahead of disasters and control what you can predict. While bureaucrats can get in the way of making swift decisions, engage local AHJs when operating in gray areas to get approval for flex spaces or tented treatment areas (they are more flexible than you might think).

Caregivers Need Restorative Spaces – There are tremendous stresses put on caregivers during this pandemic. When polled, caregivers asked for spaces that were quiet, had natural light, and included natural greenery or art depicting naturescapes, privacy, and access to the outdoors.

Competition is Here to Stay – Retail medical providers such as Walmart, CVS, Optum Health, and others are offering up services with better access and transparent pricing, resulting in top notch patient experiences. These new retail providers also seem to be nimbler and faster to market when delivering new sites of care projects.


ASHE Annual

Infrastructure – Deteriorating facilities are currently a huge concern in healthcare. We see this only being exacerbated in the future due to the continuing effects of the pandemic and the pauses it has caused in construction upgrades. There were several sessions dedicated to discussing planning and funding. There was also a general discussion about how to approach the C-Suite for additional support as well as another general discussion about pandemic impacts that was geared toward facilities staff.   Beyond this, a few other sessions were dedicated to talking about sustainability and resiliency in the industry and how to plan for some of the natural disasters that continue to impact the world.

2022 FGI Guidelines – In early 2022, we will see the release of the updated FGI Guidelines. There will be some significant changes in requirements for acoustics as related to Outpatient and Residential facilities.  There will also be some changes to design in the Emergency Department (ED) to help alleviate some of the overcrowding and surging situations that tend to occur. One concept will involve low-acuity stations for the “walking well,” which have been shown to help reduce the stay for patients with minor injuries or conditions. Another concept is the behavioral and mental health crisis unit. Behavioral visits have been climbing in the ED for several years and patient stays in the ED can be long due to the shortage of beds at inpatient behavioral health facilities. These new spaces can be used to help provide better care.

Pressurization & Humidity – Several sessions were dedicated as a great reminder of the importance of pressurization and humidity within healthcare facilities. For those facilities utilizing the Relative Humidity waiver of >= 20%, it was a great reminder to review the facilities’ associated risk assessment and continue to talk with infection control/prevention, staff, and equipment vendors. In regard to pressurization, there were sessions dedicated to discussing spaces that require pressurization (positive or negative) and a discussion on how the current pandemic has impacted some additional spaces; be it through negative pressure rooms, additional filtration and how that impacts the overall outdoor air requirement for the facility, or pressure drop in the system and how often a bigger picture needs to be discussed when making major changes.

ASHRAE 170-2021 – Lately, many changes have occurred to the Residential and Outpatient guidelines outlined in this section of ASHRAE. There are also filtration requirements across the board and operating room requirements for Ortho and other specialty procedures. An allowable alternate to all room exhaust with dedicated exhaust fans and HEPA filters connected to the general exhaust system was also added.

Surge & Specialty Service Spaces – Acute care rooms that allow for surge and specialty services are going to be key for future spaces and to prepare for future pandemics. Thinking about how systems can prepare now to be in a better position for a future surge is incredibly important. It was wonderful to explore how we can all came together to fight a common enemy and how to get ahead of whatever may come next.


Lasty, we learned from the keynote speaker that we in fact aren’t as cool as the guy who sent a rover to Mars. We know that news is hard to process, but we’re working through it. Have any additional thoughts on what’s trending in healthcare? We’re ready to talk you through your ideas and help you find valuable solutions to any of the above topics and much more. Please reach out at any time.

About the Authors

Mark Chrisman

Healthcare Practice Director | Principal
Mark Chrisman is a rare breed of smart. Not only does he love to learn, but he also naturally teaches those around him. Mark joined Henderson Engineers in 2004 and quickly began establishing client relationships that he still maintains today. A vice president and our healthcare practice director, Mark coordinates strategy for Henderson’s healthcare practice across the country. He has designed healthcare environments for some of the biggest names in the industry, providing technical expertise on fire protection and code consulting. He is known for his uncanny ability to recall specific codes and uses his immense knowledge of regulatory compliance requirements to help save clients’ money and time on projects. Mark often works in tandem with our team of healthcare specialists at Henderson Building Solutions. Don’t let his smarts fool you; this Ph.D. is creatively talented too. His party trick is spouting off the most recent code updates while busting out killer dance moves at the same time.

Greg Johnson

Director of Business Development
As director of business development for Henderson Building Solutions, Greg manages our client relationships. He is perfectly suited for the role, bringing 20 years of experience working for construction companies, electrical suppliers, and an energy service company before joining our team in 2016. Thanks to his background in the construction industry, Greg knows what it takes to help clients navigate the building process. His ability to get to the heart of understanding our clients’ needs equips our team to deliver the best solution through innovative engineering, commissioning, or engineer-led design-build construction services. Greg knows better than anyone how much the work performed by Henderson Building Solutions positively affects lives every day. A former Big Ten champion at the University of Minnesota and professional baseball player, Greg fully understands how to be a great teammate.