PDC Summit Rant Retrospective

Posted on March 21, 2013


I have been out of the blog loop for a little while for various reasons.  One of those reasons was to attend the annual ASHE Planning Design and Construction (PDC) Summit for Healthcare last month.  The last six years I have attended the PDC Summit, arguably the best conference for bringing healthcare providers and designers / constructors together.

Last year, amidst mixed messages and what I felt were missed opportunities, I wrote a stream-of-consciousness rant on my flight home.  Here are some selections from it:

…I am rarely privy to, let alone blow away by, innovative thought on healthcare planning, design or construction.  I thought about my disappointment at the PDC and the movie quote came to my head: “What if this is as good as it gets?”

…A/E/C are in denial at the PDC. Do the presenters really think they are on the leading edge of things? Innovation in teaming (CB2) with separate members? Providing leadership through IPD, where little risk is assumed by the IPD partners? A/E/C have yet to propose real solutions at the PDC; they are far too reactive, waiting for HC leaders to tell them what to build.

…Hospital CEOs are in denial as well. Lauding a cross-town competitor’s specialty treatment regimen, and in the same breath touting their own duplicative service? At what value and cost?

…Hospital CEOs say project capital is their biggest hurdle. A/E/C needs to find a way to make projects work more creatively with capital: re-envision contracts, procurement, risk/reward, traditional financing assumptions, etc.

…I have yet to attend a PDC session with legitimate dialogue or debate—honest, intelligent, insightful debate. The sessions are too passive, listening to people talk about a project as if a sample set of one or two is enough to command expertise. I want HC thought leaders who have tried to envision HC, how it is broken and where it is headed:  Clayton Christensen, Michael Porter, et al. We need to know how we got here to figure out where we need to go.

…Ian Morrison is accepted because he is connected to think tanks and has a foreign sense-of-humor; however, he sugar-coats our industry’s problems. He steps lightly across the real business issues causing industry strife—competition and duplication of services, insurance providers, lack of comparative data for the consumer / patient, cost of care, quality of care.  Capitalism has a 100-year-plus history of success, and economic theory even longer.  Even healthcare is not going to overturn or violate economic laws like the benefits of competition, risk / reward, etc.  Honor the laws that govern the world.

…Healthcare hypocrisy is everywhere:  presenting a patient room with a picture of a flower when actual flowers are banned…how ironic. Or, touting infection control as a key issue and then distributing loaner iPads to new patients to help orient and educate them. Who disinfects the iPads? Think people!

…A/E/C are pretending to think they are pushing the envelope or preparing for ‘the new economy’.  A/E/C wait patiently for project crumbs while HC administrators feel their way in the dark through this chaotic marketplace, expecting and assuming they are, like Lake Wobegon, all above average and deserve to survive. HC is too stodgy, conservative and linear-thinking to step outside its own box.

As I look back one year later, I am happy to say this year’s conference was improved, and lacking the hubris of old.  Although some of what I wrote above is still accurate for this year’s show, this year there was no unofficial, precooked theme. It seemed like attendees and PDC planners alike had been humbled by the economy (finally) and were more open to letting the conference lead them to understanding.

Make no mistake:  this is not ASHE’s fault.  The PDC Summit serves a valuable purpose and should continue.  However, it also must think critically at what it serves up as seminar and plenary programming and constantly ask, as we should all ask ourselves in our own work every day (to borrow a phrase from sports, as it is March Madness):  is this effort right here, right now moving the ball forward?

Posted in: Design Zeitgeist