COVID-19 has had a significant impact on the world over the past several months, and many industries have been impacted. Healthcare providers — from enormous, academic teaching hospitals like UCLA to smaller, local doctor’s offices — have and continue to be the offensive line of the COVID-19 pandemic, and have experienced substantial hardships during this time.

Many providers have seen a severe decrease in revenue due to the loss of elective and outpatient procedures over the last several months. In most healthcare systems, elective and outpatient procedures account for a large majority of profit, leaving many to use furloughs, salary reductions, bonus elimination, 401(k) matching deferment, and even layoffs to adjust to this new and rapidly changing business model. The staff and team members are the heart of any healthcare business. Even while facing reductions in salary and benefits, they are being asked to work longer hours while possibly being exposed to COVID-19.

The future of healthcare delivery is uncertain as many adjust to a new normal. Outpatient procedures are beginning to ramp up again, but it is unclear if these operations will ever meet past revenue numbers. As a result, healthcare providers are reassessing their delivery programs and the physical campus components involved in hospital, clinic and similar environments.

Items like telemedicine implementation, ICU bed design, overall acute bed design, triage design and Emergency Department design are all very likely to change once COVID-19 is analyzed for physical environment components. More than ever before, the ability of architects, engineers and contractors to be adaptable and creatively adjust to the rapidly changing needs of our healthcare providers is clear.

In addition to being a rapidly changing environment, each healthcare provider has a different approach to care models and the physical solutions that support them. ICU bed design at one hospital isn’t required to mirror the layout at another hospital. While there are many code requirements that apply to all, there are creative ways to interpret and apply these codes to achieve a unique physical environment. Although codes may change due to COVID-19, the healthcare provider’s application of evolving care models will guide the design and construction community to create new, innovative physical solutions that address the many challenges healthcare providers will face.

How healthcare providers change and adapt their business models will likely be key to continued success. Similarly, firms in the architecture, engineering and construction industry must be able to pivot and adapt business models and offerings to better support the front-line healthcare providers in this changing world.

Chris Powers, RA, AIA, NCARB, is a project manager at Burns & McDonnell. He has spent half his career as a practicing healthcare architect and the other half as a healthcare owner, hiring and managing healthcare architects, engineers and contractors. Over the past 27 years he has completed projects in 20 states.