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You Had Me at Efficiency

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Four Ways to SHOW YOUR ORGANIZATION THE MONEY in Healthcare Design

Okay, maybe efficiency in healthcare design isn’t as exciting as the love story between Tom Cruise and Renee Zellweiger in the movie “Jerry Maguire,” but when I talk to Healthcare Industry Leaders, any time a design solution can improve bottom line operational efficiency, it’s a win. Addressing issues through programming and design can result in improved space usage that can “Show Your Organization the Money” in operational cost savings. You don’t even have to write a risky manifesto.

I recently had the opportunity to lead a panel of experts on Innovative Design for Ambulatory Care at the Chicago & Midwest Healthcare Real Estate Summit. The panelists brought varied healthcare design backgrounds and experience, and while the topic began around cost-effective delivery in ambulatory expansion, a number of core ideas emerged. These ideas centered on the issues that are really driving hospitals to pursue renovations, additions and build new facilities.

When undertaking the considerable expenditure that comes with renovations or new facilities, it’s important these modifications are focused on the needs of the end users. Also, with the changing healthcare landscape, it’s more important than ever to look at solutions that focus on efficiency – both in operations and design.  I hear a similar concern resonating from healthcare administrators who are taking on expenditures for facility projects “what can be done to increase efficiency.” I am fortunate to be working with clients who are pushing the boundaries of typical healthcare design, and here are just a few opportunities I am seeing that can “Show Your Organization the Money.”

  • Issue #1: Our employees are having to walk long distances during the day, reducing the number of patients they can see and increasing fatigue.
    Efficiency Opportunity: Constricted floor plans can reduce staff traveling distance. One tactic we are seeing many clients use is dual-access exam rooms where the core staff work areas are immediately adjacent to all patient areas, reducing steps needed by doctors and support staff. This approach provides additional benefits: visually separating front and back of house operations, and potentially reducing patient falls with improved proximity and sightlines to staff.
  • Issue #2: Our department heads are traveling between multiple locations and not on site every day, so their private offices are underutilized.
    Efficiency Opportunity:  We have seen an increase in shared ‘touchdown’ workstations, allowing split use among multiple managers, reducing unused real-estate and freeing up important space within the building for functions focused on staff and patient well-being. As an added bonus, chance interactions between staff can improve collaboration, knowledge sharing, and comradery.
  • Issue #3: Each department in our building has their own registration function, taking up valuable real estate and increasing staffing needs within the clinic.
    Efficiency Opportunity: We have started to see a transition in our clients’ operations by adopting a centralized registration location that handles check-ins and directs patients to waiting areas closer to individual departments.
  • Issue #4: Each department’s staff want their own break room, conference room, and so forth, leading to duplication of spaces.
    Efficiency Opportunity: While the argument that staff can’t leave their department may be valid for certain hospital services, it rarely holds true in the ambulatory setting. By developing a sharing strategy for these common spaces, we can reduce their overall footprint and reprogram space back to patient care services. The caveat with this change is the need for managed operational and cultural changes to ensure a shared space strategy works for staff needs.

Healthcare facility design changes can be expensive up front and difficult to design for future use. Integrating solutions focused on efficiency and flexibility help ensure smart use of space today and well into the future, maximizing your investment. I’d like to hear from you too, what challenges are you seeing in efficient use of space at your campus or facility? How do you say, “show me the money?” in your facility design.

Paul Stefanski, RA, EDAC, LEED AP
Senior Design Architect + Associate
Paul is an Architect with over 18 years’ experience, spending a significant portion of his career in healthcare design. He specializes in the integration of knowledge management strategies with design tools in healthcare architecture in an effort to improve the client, staff and patient experience. In addition to his career as a professional architect and medical planner, he is an amateur marathon runner, puzzle solver, kite flyer, and home brewer.

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