Five Takeaways from Healthcare Facilities Symposium & Expo
McKim & Creed’s Business Development Directors Jessica Graber and Ann Sekely attended the Healthcare Facilities Symposium & Expo in Charlotte, N.C. in September where they heard from healthcare experts. Here are their top takeaways:
McKim & Creed’s microgrid expertise and solutions could soon be a differentiator in healthcare.
JG: Some states are moving toward Electrification, which is using electric power over alternative fuel sources. We learned about a hospital in Irvine, Calif., that operates on 100 percent electric power. But, if that hospital wishes to expand, the utility provider requires at least six years advance notice, which could create a significant problem for hospital systems looking to use only electrical power. Moving to 100 percent electric comes with an increase in costs of expansions and new construction, power and hospital operations and could impact patient care and availability of services in the future. McKim & Creed’s expertise with microgrid solutions could solve this challenge for healthcare clients.
How can engineers focus on positively impacting project outcomes?
JG: I attended the “Building Healthcare Facilities Confidently in an Uncertain Market” with presenters from Robins & Morton, HKS, Inc. and JLL. Jennifer Lacy with Robins & Morton spoke about using Lean Project Delivery concepts. She suggested that we each approach our work, projects, and our daily lives by asking ourselves two questions:
- What action can I take today to make a positive impact (toward solving a problem or reaching a goal, etc.)?
- If there is some “external force” that might prevent me from making a positive impact, then what other course of action will positively impact the outcome?
Jennifer used the example of equipment delays that often bring a project schedule to a halt. If you cannot make the equipment arrive faster, then what other course of action might you take? Could you bring the contractors into earlier meetings with the project team where they can help engineers and architects either plan for equipment purchases or consider alternate design options?
Focus on utilizing technology to provide solutions for patients and their families.
JG: Some hospitals are renovating space to add a Technology Bar, much like Apple’s Genius Bar, to improve the patient experience, reduce stress, and enable a better quality of healthcare. (Cook Children’s Medical Center in Prosper, Texas was shared as an example). If more patients and patient families were able to utilize available technologies that can help individuals connect to and navigate the healthcare system, we would see an increase in the quality of patient care and patient satisfaction with healthcare services. For example, parents or caretakers of patients with multiple disabilities may be able to receive messages about their appointments both BEFORE and AFTER with information that can save a lot of stress, like understanding that they can utilize valet parking and where to go to do that, or directions about aftercare and the many things that patients are often told upon discharge or at the end of an appointment, but may easily forget. Doctors are often aware of technologies that patients with chronic illness can use that may help track symptoms, or remind patients about taking critical medicines – but many times these technologies are never shared with patients. As the doctor may not know how to use or doesn’t have time to teach a patient how to use the technology, and there are no available resources to send the patient to for education and help with the technology. In response to this issue, several hospitals have started adding Technology Bars, where patients can get one-on-one assistance with any medical related technology. Game changer!
Redefining Medical Office Buildings (MOBs) by putting patient care first.
AS: Changing the way MOBs are designed to put a greater emphasis on patient experience is the next wave of medical facility design. The thoughts shared highlighted modular facility design that can be reconfigured when necessary. The proposed model would include separate floors for engagement (arrivals with a bigger focus on hospitality), treatment (exam rooms, etc.) and academic floors (spaces just for doctors for dictation, tele-health, administrative tasks, etc.). Depending on the situation, the pods can be made smaller or larger. By using modular systems and centralized registration, the model maximizes the clinical footprint, while clinical and office floor repetition ensures flexibility.
JG: While modular construction may not save money in terms of materials — and any savings achieved could be canceled by shipping and transportation costs — modular construction can save time and time is money, especially in the commercial real estate space. The faster a building is occupant ready, the faster the building can be leased or used for business. Additionally, commercial facilities like medical office buildings (MOBs) often have several repetitive design elements, like exam rooms, restrooms, or medical instrumentation wall panels. Offsite fabrication of these facility interior design elements in a controlled environment enables an earlier start on interior construction, greater quality control, less material waste, and typically requires less labor. The interior walls are assembled in advance and shipped, ready to install, once they reach the facility site where the prefab material is installed, driving a significant cost savings over building items like repetitive wall panels on site.
Focus on a healthcare facility’s ventilation systems.
AS: A critical aspect of ensuring a safe and healthy environment in healthcare facilities is maintaining ventilation systems’ capacity to withstand and adapt to various challenges and disruptions. The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the importance of redundancy, emergency power supply, contingency plans, and infection disease preparedness. Hospitals should have detailed contingency plans to address ventilation system failures or disruptions and manage ventilation in isolation rooms and areas with infected patients to prevent the spread of airborne pathogens. Regular maintenance and inspections of ventilation systems are crucial to identify and address potential issues before they become significant problems. MEP engineers can help hospitals improve their ventilation systems by discussing the benefits of regular maintenance and inspection, showing them modern ventilation system technologies, and helping them develop emergency plans to respond quickly to outbreaks and other crises. In designing a new air handling unit for waiting rooms and exam rooms, an engineer can consider exhausting 100 percent of the space air, which will prevent waiting rooms and exams rooms from spreading the virus.