Inspiring Ideas Making the Most of Your Space: Lessons Learned from the Healthcare Environment

As a leader of an organization, there’s no shortage of challenges for you to address. And while it’s helpful to seek inspiration from similar entities, there’s also significant value in looking outside of your industry to see how others have embraced opportunities and tackled challenges.

In this series, CORE Planning Strategies explores how a variety of organizations are approaching a host of common issues. We hope it inspires you to get new ideas in unexpected places. Our first area of focus is making the most of your space, with lessons from the healthcare environment.

Supporting Your Team’s Performance

Many industries optimize their operations by managing the flow of people through their space, whether it’s rotating occupancies or grouping activities to certain parts of a building during certain times of the day.

In the healthcare industry, seconds count, making proximity and efficiency critical to patient care. According to Gary L. Vance, FAIA, FACHA, LEED AP, planner, architect and consultant at Vance Consulting, over time, the emergency department has evolved to provide modularity in the physical design so that the environment effectively responds to the people in the space.

“The importance, identity and culture of the emergency department is now very distinct within the healthcare environment,” Gary said. “As a result, it is critical to respond to the different needs of people in the space. Patients and their families need to find clarity within the environment to ensure their loved one is receiving the medical care they need. Caregivers need to have a functional and efficient environment to meet the medical, human and psychological needs of the patient and family. In addition, the caregivers need an environment that allows them to be provide the required care in an empathetic, proficient and humanistic manner. Team support members need to be able to provide their services in an almost invisible way.”

Strategic adjacencies can play a large role in the efficiency of spaces. Annette Basham, project manager at CORE Planning Strategies, previously worked as an interior designer for the Richard L. Roudebush VA Medical Center. In preparation for a two-floor renovation, after analyzing caregivers’ pedometers worn during their shifts, the hospital realized that each nurse was traveling an average of two miles a day to get supplies. As a result, the renovated space included supply cabinets closer to the nurse stations and patient rooms.

“This improved the efficiency of the caregivers and allowed them to spend more time on patient care,” Annette said.

Josh Scism, MBA, PMP, CLSSGB, senior project manager at CORE Planning Strategies, noted that the caregiver-to-patient proximity also applies to where healthcare facilities are located.

“When we talk about bringing care closer to the patient, ‘micro-hospitals’ and urgent care facilities are doing just that,” Josh said. “With their smaller footprints and strategic locations in their communities, these facilities can result in increased efficiencies for the healthcare organization and increased convenience for their patients.”

At Indiana University Health, Indiana’s largest healthcare system, the team is designing new buildings around improved care delivery processes.

“Many hospitals were built years ago, and care delivery models have been constrained by the facility and infrastructure available,” said Mike Castor, executive director of design and construction, IU Health. “As we design new facilities, our focus is creating a care delivery model that maximizes the patient experience and designing the building around that work model. Instead of making the functions match the form, we’re making the form match the function. Across all areas of the hospital, we’re understanding the work flow first, then designing space that supports clinical outcomes.”

Supporting Your Building’s Performance

Making the most of your space also calls for reducing energy consumption when possible. Healthcare facilities can be high users of energy and resources, making it vital to manage the building and operations in a highly efficient and cost-effective manner.

IU Health is implementing a number of guidelines that relate to sustainability.

In addition to seeking Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification for their building projects, the organization is electing to participate in the ENERGY STAR program for their new projects. A voluntary program by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, ENERGY STAR helps organizations manage and measure the energy use in their facilities.

When considering the outcomes of patients and of the efficiency of the engineering systems like heating, ventilation, and air conditioning, Mike says the two are closely linked.

“Patient safety, reducing the risk of hospital-acquired infections, and improving clinical outcomes are top priorities,” Mike said. “Sometimes people assume that energy efficiency goals compete with those priorities. But we’ve found that if our systems are efficient, operating properly, and well maintained, not only are we improving sustainability and efficiency, but we’re able to improve infection control and clinical outcomes.”

The term sustainability doesn’t just relate to engineering systems—it also relates the longevity of a structure. Both Mike and Josh pointed out the importance of designing healthcare facilities for future flexibility as technology and care delivery methods inherently change.

“The decisions we make today will affect our costs of space renovation moving forward,” Mike said. “One of our goals for our current projects is to implement adaptability into our designs to lower the cost of future space renovations.”

“When planning for facilities, we need to think about how we can make the most of the space, both today and tomorrow,” Josh said. “Designing for flexibility also calls for considering how technology can be leveraged to create spaces that accommodate multiple purposes.”

Idea Inspiration

Considering lessons from the healthcare industry, here are some ideas to ponder for your organization.

  • How can you expand, contract or cluster how your space is staffed, based on time of day or level of use?
  • Is your workplace filled with work-arounds because the design of the space isn’t functional to accommodate how people work today?
  • What services or functions could be decentralized to help increase efficiency and convenience?
  • How could participation in ENERGY STAR or other sustainability programs benefit your organization?
  • Could reducing your carbon footprint help reduce some costs?

CORE Planning Strategies helps organizations increase efficiencies, realize ideal capital improvements, and transform communities. Whether it’s creating a comprehensive energy master plan or engaging a space planning firm to conduct with a high-level analysis, CORE can help identify the next steps that are right for you.

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