Two weeks ago I attended the Mobile Healthcare Technology Summit sponsored by Smith Seckman Reid, Inc.  in Nashville, Tennessee.  The healthcare industry is one of the most regulated ones in the nation, which can present some special challenges for design and construction. 

Although the summit focused on mobile technologies in the healthcare industry, I walked away with a number of construction and design lessons when dealing with either new construction or renovation projects involving hospitals or other medical care facilities:

  1. It is imperative to get your information technology team at the design table.  It is no secret that technology changes on a regular basis … Just check how much your laptop is worth two months after you purchase a new one!  In the healthcare industry, the available technology can radically change from the time the design is finished to the time of substantial completion of the construction or renovation.  By bringing the IT folks to the design table, you can begin to prepare for many of the changes in technology.
  2. It is important for all the players to be flexible.  Since technology changes so rapidly (… see point above … ), flexibility is key to a successful implementation of new equipment, renovation of entire floors, or new construction of a medical facility.  For example, one panel member shared the experience of the design change (during construction) of the in-room work stations to allow physicians and nurses to face the patient while reviewing and charting information, as opposed to having their back to the patient, as originally designed.
  3. Choose equipment that allows all systems to communicate with each other.  Although systems are beginning to be more compatible, it is important to talk with your vendors and specialty suppliers to make sure the various systems can integrate properly.  
  4. Get the end-users involved in the design and construction process.  That does not mean your nurses will be carrying around hammers and nails.  It means that the design team needs to understand the work flow of the end users and be ready to adapt to that information learned in the design process.  It is equally important to understand the expectations of the end users and to implement those expectations into the end result.
  5. Prepare a contingency plan for your IT needs. Stated another way, don’t put all your eggs in one basket.  While this may seem to be a no-brainer, the entire team needs to talk through contingencies.  These contingencies can involve problems, emergencies or expenses.  The real lesson is to make sure each player (owner, architect, engineer, contractor) is talking about the same contingency and then to plan for that contingency. 

As there continues to be an upward trend for healthcare construction in the coming years, what tips can you suggest?

Image: Mars Discovery District on Flckr