In this series, healthcare design Leading healthcare design professionals, companies, and owners are asked to tell us what caught their eye and share some thoughts on the topic.
Seth Sargent, Vice President of Healthcare at construction hoar (Birmingham, ALA) shares his thoughts on the impact of telemedicine, the rise of mergers and acquisitions, and how modular construction is poised to transform the industry.
- Technological innovation accelerates
Telemedicine is no stranger to the healthcare world, but the pandemic has accelerated the adoption of this technology across the industry. Social distancing has forced telemedicine to become the norm for a temporary period, and it will be interesting to see if this trend holds up in the next decade. In-person doctor’s office meetings are likely to decline as more patients feel comfortable with the benefits this technology provides. With potentially fewer patients in waiting rooms, how will this valuable space be reused? Will we see dedicated telemedicine spaces for providers to interact virtually?
- Focus on the local level
Even with the presence and growth of national brands, healthcare is still a very local business. Metro areas in the Southeast and Texas are growing faster than those seen before the pandemic, and providers are planning strategies, such as building more outpatient facilities and medical offices, to serve this population shift. As people commute less and work remotely, we see major metro areas continue to draw people back into an urban environment by creating live/work/leisure communities. Moreover, shopping centers of the 1970s and 1980s are being repurposed for new uses that meet the demands of society, such as warehouse space for e-commerce delivery or healthcare facilities. I believe health systems will continue to partner with retail, leisure, fitness and senior living development projects to enable systems to interact with people every day. These mixed-use centers can be a place for communities to access healthcare from a variety of providers as well as stay active and entertained.
- Expect more mergers and acquisitions
Integrations are nothing new in healthcare and can benefit the consumer by integrating better care delivery and higher quality care closer to home. While the pandemic has slowed mergers and acquisitions due to uncertainty and the coronavirus relief bill bolstering already strained systems financially, activity will pick up again as the rescue package fades and health systems look to protect turf and growth. As a result, we will see a growing need to standardize design and creativity across all hospital systems as they compete for consumer business. Regardless of which facility a patient receives care from in the health system, a standardized patient experience through everything from signage to construction style will be critical to the success of these integrations.
- Flexibility remains key
The pandemic has emphasized the need for flexibility in healthcare design as unconventional spaces have been converted into ICU patient rooms, triage areas and waiting rooms, while field hospitals have popped up every week. The projects that were under construction had to pivot halfway to accommodate the changing needs and new requirements. The pandemic has forever changed the way we think about and plan healthcare projects as projects will need to consider questions like “Can this type of pandemic happen again?” “How do we plan for what we don’t know?” and “Can we afford to build for the worst-case scenario?” It is up to the design of teams and general contractors to work together to ensure that flexibility remains a top priority for everyone. For example, one solution to consider could be to design with convertible walls that can expand or shrink the space as needed.
- Will modular construction change the rules of the game?
Modular construction in healthcare remains a hot topic with many benefits, including speed to completion, standardization and consistency in design, and the potential for lower manufacturing cost. However, there are still some efficiencies to be gained in price and manufacturing time as this practice matures to determine if it will become de facto Basic. For example, shipping these units from the point of manufacture to the installation site can become tedious and expensive, and on-site installation is not always plug and play. Contractors are working to determine the best way to incorporate these pre-construction developments into project schedules. When modules really affect the three components of the triple constraint – quality, cost and time – we will see full adoption within the industry.
Want to share your top 5? Contact Managing Editor Tracey Walker at [email protected] For submission instructions.