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Reimagining Construction and Care


Healthcare leaders are faced with very few options and many demands: increased competition, cost reductions, government regulations and narrowed margins. What’s left to work with? How can they thrive in today’s ever-changing and demanding marketplace while setting their organizations apart from the competition as the brand of choice?

Contractors can help.

The healthcare industry is currently experiencing changes at a greater rate than any other industry. These advancements are not only regulatory but also pertain to satisfying high-patient expectations, all while producing profitable results despite ever-tightening reimbursement models. Transformations are in high demand, but where do you start?

Changes in healthcare due to the Affordable Care Act have made individuals more mindful of where they spend their healthcare dollars. With a variety of pricing and treatment models available, patients are becoming consumers of healthcare rather than simply recipients.

Project teams at Miron Construction, in Neenah, Wisconsin, an AGC of Greater Milwaukee and an AGC of Wisconsin member, are industry experts in creating patient satisfaction results. When asked in the past, most healthcare administrators were confident of patient satisfaction because they were providing positive outcomes. When asked that question today, the response isn’t so simple. Administrators and caregivers recognize that traditional facilities and care models are antiquated, wasteful and fail to connect with patients on a personal or emotional level. The consumer power of other industries has officially infiltrated healthcare, and this shift presents a huge opportunity to rethink what patients and visitors are looking for when choosing a healthcare provider.

True innovation starts with questioning the status quo—not with what you do or how you do it, but why you do it. Once that question is answered, the creativity of project teams is unleashed and transformation is the natural outcome. Design must move beyond a focus on medical procedures and reestablish how to improve the outcomes of those procedures. This must be done while creating environments and processes that connect with the patient on an emotional level and offer a sense of ownership.

A new way of thinking is not only essential for patient satisfaction but will attract and retain top medical talent. A hospital that provides a targeted approach to building a healing environment leads to physician, staff and patient attachment. With an average of two to four years between the initial design and the build out of a hospital, it’s critical to look beyond the current state of healthcare for ways to stay ahead of the curve.

Construction is a risky business, especially if you are betting on the future. Standards and guidelines are great tools to get started, but continuing to do what you have always done will only get you what you’ve already got. Now is the time for experimentation and bringing services, processes and modalities together in ways that have never been done before. Ask yourself, would your hospital, community, visitors and staff benefit from having a yoga studio located on campus? A healthy bistro? A health center? A center for education? Big-picture thinking can take you far in the current industry climate.

Widen your scope of inspiration. Look outside the medical industry at organizations that are standouts in their respective fields, whether they are linked to healthcare or not. Look at such companies and think about why these companies are industry leaders. Take field trips to industry-leading companies. Ask the question, “What aspects of design, user-friendliness and service can be applied to patient-centered design?” What can the kitchen staff learn from a field trip to Whole Foods or Panera Bread? Can the reception team learn anything from a trip to the Apple Store?

Patients are becoming consumes of healthcare rather than simply recipients.

By keeping the end user top of mind, the healthcare construction industry will continue to discover creative ways to achieve true patient piece of mind.

Rethink the entire hospital experience from the patient’s perspective. The patient experience is shaped by the cues a hospital provides to the patient’s senses. Assess the process a patient goes through before seeing a caregiver, and ask the following questions:

  • What is the first thing a patient sees when he or she enters the facility?
  • Is the entrance easily accessible? Is it inviting?
  • Is the patient greeted by a friendly face, a long line of other patients waiting to be helped, or a sterile glass transaction counter? Are patients herded like cattle? Are they left to their own navigation?
  • Does the facility offer the amenities to provide comfort, security and privacy?

Document the process a patient experiences in pictures, video and value stream maps. It is imperative that you involve all of the individual hospital staff members that are responsible for these processes, especially when trying out new approaches. When it comes to changing these problematic paradigms, it can be very difficult to do without buy-in and ownership from all team members. Once this happens, creating a new facility flow is much easier.

In trying to predict what the future holds, turn the conventional model on its head and look inside out. Challenge your teams with best practices from other industries. When you implement a new way of thinking and reimagine the possibilities that could be, you attract collaborators and can offer something that is not only unique, but better serves your communities. Bringing in people from different disciplines elicits alternate viewpoints and leads to new ways of connecting the patients, visitors and the hospital as one community of care.

When a project is patient-centric, contractors start with a tactical approach to determine eventual outcomes so the end goal remains the driving force of the project. The understanding of future trends and patient needs guides every part of the project from day one. It takes rethinking every aspect of a hospital and asking, “Why do we do that?” to build something truly noteworthy. Knowing what the industry has done in the past is no longer enough. By keeping the end user top of mind, the healthcare construction industry will continue to discover creative ways to achieve true patient peace of mind.