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The Role of Design in Meeting Health Reform Goals

April 2015
Author: Lisa Ellis

The passage of healthcare reform has increased the demand for healthcare services in communities all across the country. For many hospitals, this translates into the need for more beds and bigger facilities. But with the current emphasis on providing high quality care in a cost effective setting, the truth is that in today’s challenging marketplace, bigger isn’t necessarily better.

So what does this paradox mean for hospital administrators and other decision makers in the healthcare arena? How do they serve the growing patient population while still keeping costs down, and maintain efficiency without sacrificing the quality of their medical care?

As most design experts will tell you, one of the ways to provide high quality, cost effective care is paying close attention to the design of the facility. This means that investing in “getting it right” up front can save you a great deal of time, money, and stress in the future — really! An aesthetically appealing and efficiently operating setting can satisfy your patients, too, which goes a long way toward creating customer loyalty.

If you have any plans on the horizon to construct a new building or redesign an existing one, it’s essential to identify your goals right from the start. Think about how the project can be a framework to help your services operate as efficiently as possible to meet the current healthcare needs, and also to position yourself for continued growth. Keep in mind that rather than creating a very large environmental footprint for your project, you may want to consider focusing on using smaller spaces in smarter ways.

From a practical standpoint, this means incorporating the latest technologies into your operations (think electronic medical records, medication safety system, remote surgical options, etc.), being as energy efficient as possible (such as heating and cooling on demand, and energy efficient lighting and equipment), and creating efficient spaces where staff can accommodate multiple patients in the safest and most convenient manner. In addition to better serving larger numbers of patients, this can also help to limit employee injuries, reduce burnout, and boost morale. A state-of-the-art facility can also attract high-level physicians to your network, adding further benefits.

Another important aspect of healthcare reform is taking more procedures to an outpatient setting. Explore design renovations that can help your existing spaces meet the growing needs. Think about ways to improve the patient experience, such as by incorporating technology into daily operations, updating exam rooms and waiting areas, and redoing parking lots.

Designing healthcare facilities to improve the quality of care and outcomes for patients, residents, and staff can make your operations healthier than ever. In this way, healthcare reform can be a good prescription for everyone.


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