Creating a resilient healthcare facility

Resilient healthcare facilities are designed to bounce back during times of disruption—to adapt as quickly as the needs within them change, maintaining their quality and relevance over time.

Exam room wall of Mora System casework in a light wood laminate finish and a physician standing and taking notes.

“We can usefully define resilience as a company’s capacity to absorb stress, recover critical functionality, and thrive in altered circumstances.” 1

In healthcare, a mass crisis is always a possibility. Healthcare organizations prepare by doing drills, maintaining paper flowcharts, and installing backup generators, for example. While those are important, an essential and often overlooked part of preparation comes before a healthcare facility is even built.

As organizations scrambled to adjust staffing, operations, and more as COVID-19 took hold, it became clear that their facilities couldn’t respond to the pandemic’s new and unexpected demands. In the absence of facility flexibility, staff created workarounds, doing their best to adjust their processes within the limitations of their environment. The costs of a static healthcare facility are considerable—not only to the bottom line, but also to the ability of staff to care for patients. 

When you prioritize resilience in the design of your facilities, you’re enabling them to readily respond to disruptions, big and small, and to maintain their relevance for years to come.

Resiliency’s capabilities and benefits

Ready to start building resilience? Here are some capabilities to think about as you begin your planning. 2


Adaptability to allow for iteration

Benefit: You can use existing elements to continuously improve what you have.

Amenability to contingency planning

Benefit: You have solutions designed and ready for different types of disruptions.

Reliability because of built-in redundancies

Benefit: You can achieve the same purpose using different elements.


Benefit: You can use the same element for multiple uses.


Benefit: By redeploying components, you can reduce or eliminate downtime.

Integral to a larger working system

Benefit: It allows for micro adjustments to features within the environment.

Read about an organization that did it right.

Case study

Resilience in action

What does resilience look like?

Resilience is furnishings that are designed specifically for redeployment, so they can continually support the health system’s strategy for delivering the best patient care, even when that strategy requires a real estate pivot.

Compass System's modularity reduces downtime during change.

Read the case study.

Co/Struc System

Co/Struc System: Evolve with changes big and small

Watch a video showing how a lab can be reconfigured to adapt to a Healthcare system's changing needs when using Herman Miller's Co/Struc System.


It’s flexible furnishings that can adapt to accommodate new people, processes, equipment, and even service lines readily with minimal cost and downtime.

Co/Struc System's adaptability helps your work environment evolve.

A prefab Commend Nurses Station with dark blue Verus Chairs, blue Corian front, white laminate tops, and brushed stainless-steel toe kicks.

It’s the hospital system that uses its facility as a tool to help solve problems brought on by a pandemic or other unexpected crisis. For example, one medical center converted its lobby into a clinical triage area for non-COVID-19 patients—complete with nurses stations, screens, chairs, beds, and waiting areas. It repurposed many existing Herman Miller furnishings and casework, moving them into the temporary triage area. This quick and inventive hacking of their space allowed clinicians to provide care in an appropriate setting and reduced the suffering of patients with low-acuity conditions, while also minimizing the potential for spread of the coronavirus.

Commend Nurses Station is amenable to contingency planning.

Early planning with an experienced partner is critical to building resilience.

Designing for resilience starts with early planning and makes the most of proven, standardized building blocks. To achieve maximum benefits, partner with organizations that are experienced in optimizing performance continuously over time. Look for organizations that have these four things.

  1. Healthcare expertise
    Experienced professionals who rigorously research and understand the specific requirements of healthcare environments are valuable guides throughout the process.
  2. Reliable building blocks
    A quality, adaptive kit of parts from a reliable partner affords the ability to refresh, reconfigure, and relocate elements of the built environment with minimal downtime or additional cost.
  3. A proven process
    To maximize a facility’s resilience, flexibility needs to be considered at the outset of planning. The process needs to integrate resilience thinking, planning frameworks, and adaptive building components, as well as awareness of what an uncertain future may bring.
  4. A local partner
    Local partners who are with you every step of the way—through design, acquisition, installation, and after project completion—ensure your facility will continuously perform over time.

With preparation comes peace of mind

When you invest in capabilities that make your facility resilient, you’ll benefit from the peace of mind that comes from knowing you’re prepared to perform despite disruptions. Whether the disruption is cyclical, like protecting your facilities against normal wear and tear, or irregular, like a pandemic, your facility can flex to handle it.

Ways we can help

Graphic icon of an open book with a healthcare symbol to represent healthcare knowledge.

Healthcare knowledge

Graphic icon of a page with offensive and defensive symbols and an arrow on a path to represent preparation planning.

Preparation planning

Graphic icon of a plan view building with a square and a broken-line rectangle to represent adaptive performance.

Adaptive performance

Graphic icon of plan view of a building with an arrow circling it to represent facility performance.

Facility performance

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Standardization program

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Local service network

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    1. Martin Reeves and Kevin Whitaker, "A Guide to Building a More Resilient Business," Harvard Business Review, July 2, 2020.
    2. Ibid.