Article

Interview With An Expert: Supina Mapon

Supina Mapon is Kahler Slater’s Strategic Advisory Services Leader on our Healthcare Team. With a storied past and a knack for leveraging data, she brings both rigor and creativity to our projects, resulting in positive change. Here, Supina shares a bit of her background as well as the importance of bringing together strategy, operations, experience, and architecture in order to make more informed design decisions.

Tell us more about your non-traditional path into healthcare design.

I’ve always enjoyed taking conventional approaches and applying them in non-conventional ways. Case in point - I was a classically trained violinist for most of my life but branched into other genres, playing in a punk rock orchestra and classic rock quartet. Professionally, I started my career as a management consultant but pivoted to become a product manager at a multinational technology firm leading and launching new products to the end user.

It was really during business school that I considered pursuing a career within design as a full-time endeavor. I spent the better part of two years working on new business models and channels to deliver low-cost products to countries like India, The Gambia, and Tanzania. These experiences really opened my eyes to how design can be used as a powerful tool to deliver value in resource-constrained environments. Leaving grad school, I knew I wanted to use my skills to tackle the most difficult challenges facing communities. And what industry faces the most difficult challenges except for healthcare? Healthcare design allows me to be both creative and analytical – all while helping to effect change within the health system as well.

As the Strategic Advisory Services Leader at Kahler Slater, tell us about the services you offer your healthcare clients and the benefit it can bring to their organizations.

We’ve heard from a number of health systems that they need designers who can come in and problem solve from more than one perspective. They’re also frustrated when they find that so-called integrated and holistic services are not so integrated and holistic after all. It was really important to me when I started Strategic Advisory Services at Kahler Slater to be different and to be better.

So, yes, we do offer the services you would expect to see – from strategic planning to predictive analytics to operational redesign and care model innovation that bridge the gap between consulting and the built environment – but Strategic Advisory is more than a collection of tools and services. It’s an approach that makes sure we are deeply investigating, challenging unfounded assumptions, and reframing the questions to make sure that we are addressing the right challenges.

What makes us different is not only how we are embedding Strategic Advisory as part of our base services, but that we are actively training all our designers to think and speak the language of non-traditional architecture. Everyone wears multiple hats. Everyone can challenge one another, respectfully, and question the underlying assumptions that have caused unusable and inefficient space to be built in the past. So, yes, we can design a beautiful building but it can only deliver true business value for the client if we understand the business of healthcare, how providers work, and the pressures hospitals are facing with reimbursement, disruptive competitors, consumerism, quality metrics, provider shortages, and drug and supply costs.

How are you leveraging technology and analytics to improve the design process?

Artificial intelligence and machine learning are the next frontier in architecture. We have a robust data analytics process that harnesses big data in design thinking to help healthcare organizations imagine the future and explore innovative strategies, services, and opportunities to shape it. For example, our experiential design services incorporate consumer segmentation analyses that pulls together customer data, behavioral attributes, and statistical models to help us understand current and future customer behavior and how to design for it. We have also invested significantly in automation and improved computing capabilities to save time on repetitive tasks and reinvest that time in design and rethinking traditional workflows. Finally, we are actively engaged in incorporating machine learning in our process – that is, predicting spatial configurations and approaching floor plan design from the perspective of optimization.

What do you see as the next evolution within the design industry?

I think design is evolving in such a way that telling and visualizing the story is just as important as the design itself. This means that the next generation of designers will need to become as technically proficient as they are creative – equal parts designer, strategist, researcher, bard, anthropologist, and software engineer. Moreover, the pandemic and ensuing shared global challenges that lie ahead will only be solved by collaboration within and across minds and vocations and a diversity of views. We will see medical experts helping to incorporate features for wellness and health in universities, workspaces, and retail spaces, and software engineers sitting at the table with physicians on voice-activated devices and contactless care experiences.

And just for fun… What are you watching on Netflix right now?

I just started watching Documentary Now! which is the ultimate parody on famous documentaries. It was created by Seth Meyers, Fred Armisen, and Bill Hader, so if you’re into next level satire and super dry humor, it’s a good show to add to your list.

I’m also an avid consumer of all things science-fiction related, so my standbys are Stranger Things, Dark, Altered Carbon, and the OA. With my girls, I’ll watch Ask the StoryBots, which is hilarious, educational, and for both kids and adults. My five-year old is really into Chill with Bob Ross, an oldie but goodie.