Enhancing the Healthcare Planning Process through Virtual Reality

Healthcare facility planning is changing as Virtual Reality enables clients/users/owners to step into the planning process as never before. High-tech buzzwords – Revit, Cloud, Mobile Apps, Augmented Reality, and Virtual Reality – are becoming the transformative tools of the trade. Virtual mock-ups viewed through headsets/glasses have enhanced the planning and design process, leading to better collaboration with user teams and improving project delivery.

Realigning Planning

Planning traditionally follows a linear process, from Concept Phase → Schematic Design → Design Development → Construction. Multiple in-person meetings between planning/design teams, clients and user groups identify goals and challenges, which the team then develops into concept options using sketches, diagrams and eventually Revit.

The challenge for clients and user groups, who may be unfamiliar with the planning and design process, is that diagrams, drawings, floor plans and other 2D media can be difficult to understand. This can lead to misunderstandings, resulting in costly changes and scheduling delays.

Yet by taking advantage of evolving high-tech tools, Virtual Reality can teleport clients and users into concepts early and allow them to walk through virtual spaces to better understand department layouts, adjacencies, workflows, and room finishes. New concepts and trends can be introduced and tested in real time through the comprehensive Revit family library, allowing planners and designers to share numerous clinical experiences with clients as they determine the best solutions. Revisions can then easily sync back to the Revit model and be developed further in later phases.

The VR experience can expedite the entire process, reducing schedules by achieving conclusions faster. Additionally, VR presents opportunities to replace some in-person meetings with remote meetings or virtual walk-throughs via web portals, ultimately eliminating the challenges of assembling large client groups for review sessions and milestone decisions. This can be particularly helpful with international projects, saving overseas travel time and costs.

Evolving Technology

Specific tools depend on the specific design challenge, and the technology is quickly evolving. Current technology includes:

  • Motion Controls: This allows you to see your hands and interact with the virtual environment through Vive controllers, Oculus Touch controllers, and Leap Motion hand-gesture recognition.
  • Large-scale Positional Tracking: Vive 15ft x 15ft allows you to fully explore and navigate spaces without causing motion sickness.
  • Multiplayer VR Experiences: This allows more than one person in a space and enables clients and planners to collaborate remotely.
  • Software Development Applications: Customized apps and tools can be developed to meet specific design challenges or validate evidence-based design concepts.

Case Studies

Many healthcare organizations have already integrated Virtual Reality into the planning process, including:

  • Northeast Georgia Medical Center Braselton: High-level, 360-degree images captured on-site alerted designers to errors in material application.
  • Dignity Health Dominican Hybrid Operating Room, Santa Cruz, CA: Planners utilized real-time room planning, design and operational workflow testing with surgeons and staff to plan the surgical suite.
  • Medical College of Wisconsin Moorland Reserve ED, New Berlin, WI: Visibility studies led to design changes that increased views into patient rooms from nurses’ stations.
  • ThedaCare Regional Cancer Center, Appleton, WI: VR enhanced planning and design to reduce schedule and change orders. The final interactive video (below) allowed user groups to navigate through their new facility.


Virtual Reality offers tangible benefits to the healthcare planning process. By working with your design team using VR, you can:

  • Engage user groups and stakeholders earlier.
  • Test concepts virtually to determine preferred options.
  • Expedite planning/design process.
  • Create better understanding of overall facility and spaces.
  • Minimize revisions and change orders.
  • Reduce schedules and costs.