The future of
healthcare capital

Healthcare systems are facing unforeseen obstacles changing how service is delivered and how the environment is built

“How will you futureproof our program?”

This has become a common question from major healthcare providers. You know it’s coming, think of everything you can, but rarely is anyone ready with the right answer. 

In an era of reform and uncertainty, healthcare systems are facing unforeseen obstacles changing how service is delivered and how the environment is built. The same can be said for the role of project manager as population health and reimbursement based on patient outcomes will affect future planning.

Same title, new responsibilities

We are no longer managing only construction; we are managing a value-based decision-making process to predict the future. A project manager must be a cheerleader for collaboration and the conductor of a strategic plan through design, construction, and transition into a new facility. The project manager must bring enthusiasm for the client’s mission to motivate and lead a team to success.

So how do we, as project managers, ensure healthcare systems remain sustainable? 

The impact on COVID-19 on healthcare projects

Two of my daughters graduated high school this year, and there is uncertainty about what the future looks like for their first year of college. For what other impacts should we be preparing? The healthcare world is no different.

While we see many projects already in progress continuing with construction, many projects in the hopper have been temporarily put on hold. We don’t know how long this temporary hold may bring about other changes to the original plan.

Short-term solutions include converted arenas, tents, mobile homes, abandoned space, and operating rooms into temporary space for triage, testing and patient beds. While many parts of the country have fortunately not had to deal with a short supply of beds, healthcare systems are thinking about how they could have to handle this in the future.

Planning for the future

With the Affordable Care Act and the change to value-based outcomes, healthcare systems must take a hard look at how they will tackle capital projects of the future. Strategists will tell you the need for additional beds is lowering, but as we look at the aging population that may not be the case. The need for patient beds compared to the population over 75 has not decreased in the last 20 years like it has for other age categories. Baby boomers are reaching that age, so what will future bed needs look like. Other questions are, what effect will the pandemic have on behavioral health and the long-term impact from the virus? Will there be a continuance of moving care to outpatient settings and how do patients access care in rural areas? All critical when deciding the strategy to serve a community.

Moving forward

Based on recent events, space flexibility for differing care needs will be a must moving forward. The ability to convert space with differing air pressures for isolation, lab testing sites or triage space will all need to be considered as we move forward with planning. 

For example, how will we handle the waiting room in the future and maintain social distancing will impact space. Studies have shown recovery outcomes in hospitals are improved when the families are involved. The patient room has evolved to accommodate the family. Now families are not allowed in the hospital during this pandemic. 

The goal is to ensure family is a part of the recovery process. The “how” remains to be seen but getting organized and putting your team together to strategically plan the future should be your first step in getting the right facility at the right time and ensuring your healthcare client is sustainable.