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How will you build flexibility into your facility design and why

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“Optimizing Current and Future Flexibility
HE TERM FLEXIBILITY has become somewhat overused today. It is repeated as a mantra among healthcare planners and design architects. By definition, it means “adaptable” or
“adjustable to change.” In reality, achieving flexibility often requires that physicians, department managers, and staff relinquish absolute control over their space and equipment for the greater good of the organization.
Many of the reasons why we need to provide flexible and adaptable healthcare facilities have already been addressed in previous chapters of this book. Some of these reasons include the following:
• The unpredictable healthcare environment with fluctuating demand driven by changing reimbursement, new regulations, and media attention;
• The blending and melding of many diagnostic and treatment modalities with advances in technology;
• Staffing shortages in many specialties that necessitate the cross-training of staff and the creation of new job descriptions;
• Electronic information management that eliminates the need for physical proximity; and
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• Limited access to capital that requires ever more efficient utilization of all resources, including staff, equipment, and space.
Facilities should be planned to optimize current utilization as well as to provide flexible space that can be adapted over time. Some ways to achieve flexibility include the following:
Planning Multiuse or Shared Facility Components
This enables a healthcare organization to use their space efficiently and to balance workload peaks and valleys. Examples of multiuse spaces include the following:
• Acuity adaptable, or “universal,” patient rooms can be adapted for most levels of acuity by altering staffing levels and equipment. This concept can reduce costly patient transfers during an increasingly short length of stay, provide improved continuity
of care, and reduce medical errors.
• Time-share clinic space can be leased by physicians—for example, patient reception and intake areas, exam rooms, offices, and support space—by the day of week as needed, thus reducing fixed costs.
• Multiuse procedure rooms can accommodate various procedures as needed using different types of portable equipment such as EKG and ultrasound.
• Alternate space use by shift, such as by using an adjacent occupational medicine clinic or same-day medical procedure unit for treating ED fast-track patients during the evening or night shift, or by holding ED patients in the surgery suite recovery area during the evening for observation or while waiting for an inpatient bed to become available.
• Collocation of selected procedure rooms so that they can share the same patient reception and intake, preparation, recovery, and support space—for example, the collocation of various imaging
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modalities, invasive cardiology and angiography, or endoscopy and surgery.
Planning Flexible Space That Can Be Adapted Over Time
This will accommodate shifts in program focus and fluctuating utilization and can reduce long-term renovation costs. This includes space that can be easily adapted for a different functional use over time by replacing the equipment, adding a second bed, or reassigning offices and workstations to another department. In addition to the acu- ity adaptable patient rooms mentioned above, other examples of adapt- able spaces include the following:
• Flexible diagnostic and treatment center with a central patient reception and intake area, preparation and recovery area, shared staff facilities, and a mix of large and small procedure rooms where equipment can be changed and upgraded over time.
This is in contrast to the traditional approach of planning dispersed and fragmented departments such as radiology, CT, nuclear medicine, cardiology, and ultrasound.
• Flexible customer service space using a one-stop shopping concept to accommodate admitting and registration, financial counseling, cashiering, scheduling, and other similar services that require face-to-face customer interaction. With flexible offices and cubicles (and cross-trained staff), services
can be adapted to the customers’ needs over time.
• Generic administrative office suites to be used by various administrative and support staff who do not require face-to-face customer contact. Space can be reassigned over time in response to organizational changes, thus eliminating department turf issues and improving overall space utilization.
Unbundling Selected Services
Rather than embedding everything into the hospital structure, this strategy not only can reduce an organization’s initial capital investment but also can facilitate future space reallocation, contraction, and expan- sion as workloads, staffing, and operational processes change over time. Some examples include the following:
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• Relocation of routine, high-volume outpatient services in separate facilities (on or off campus) with dedicated parking and convenient access—for example, primary care clinics; selected high-volume outpatient services; or recurring
or chronic outpatient services such as rehabilitation, chemotherapy, and dialysis.
• Consolidation of building support services into a separate service building—for example, supply, processing, and distribution functions—using space that is less expensive to construct and renovate over time as operational systems, technology, and work processes change.
• Relocation of administrative offices for staff who are not involved in direct patient care outside the hospital (on site or off site) in less expensive and adaptable office building space.
Leasing Space
This strategy, versus buying or building, when appropriate allows an organization to limit its capital investment and long-term risk. This may include leasing space off site for administrative offices and new or expanding outpatient programs. Some healthcare organizations may choose to lease space such as a hotel conference room or a school audi- torium for periodic in-service or community education in lieu of con- structing an education center on the hospital campus. Interior systems furniture and other building elements may also be leased by making an arrangement with a manufacturer to take stewardship over the product’s life, including putting it together, refreshing it, and recycling it for a rea- sonable fee. Some healthcare organizations also keep up with changes in technology by leasing imaging equipment or by paying based on its use rather than buying the equipment outright (Sandrick 2005).
Building a Flexible Infrastructure
Done with long-span joists and interstitial space (although not gener- ally addressed in predesign planning), this provides a cost-effective way to adapt to ongoing changes over the life of a building. When you embed everything in the building so the pipes and wires are inside the walls, floors, and ceiling, it is almost impossible to reconfigure any space without major construction. If you build your hospital more like a shopping center, with a huge superstructure and interiors that can
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come and go at will, you will have an adaptable tool for delivering healthcare (Sandrick 2005).
Future flexibility can also be achieved by developing generic space stan- dards for rooms that accommodate similar functions. Cost savings will ultimately occur as these rooms are similarly sized and finished instead of tailored to individual occupants, even though the actual equipment may vary over time. Examples of generic spaces include the following:
• Private patient rooms (acuity-adaptable)
• Small procedure rooms (ultrasound and EKG)
• Large imaging and procedure rooms (CT, PET, and nuclear medicine)
• Interventional and surgical procedure rooms (catheterization, EP, angiography, peripheral vascular, and invasive and minimally invasive surgery)
• Medical procedure cubicles (transfusions, chemotherapy, liver biopsies, recovery from conscious sedation, and fast-track emergency treatment)
• Administrative workstations, cubicles, private offices, and conference rooms
Redesigning the healthcare campus around similar functions and cate- gories of space can facilitate short-term and long-range flexibility. However, strict adherence to the traditional department boundaries may need to be sacrificed. Potential buildings or functional components for the flexible healthcare campus of the future may include the following:
• Patient care units for overnight and multiple-day stays, day recovery centers, and shared diagnostic and treatment services
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(inpatient and outpatient) in a structure built to traditional hospital building codes
• One or more adjoining medical office buildings (built as outpatient facilities) for physician specialists and related outpatient services
• Specialty centers of excellence to provide one-stop shopping for target service lines, such as cardiology and cancer care, with collocated diagnostic, treatment, and support services
• Separate facilities (on or off campus) with dedicated parking for primary care; selected high-volume outpatient services and recurring and chronic outpatient care such as physical therapy, dialysis, and behavioral health
• A separate service center for supply, processing, and distribution functions
• An administrative office building for administrative and support staff who are not involved in direct patient care or face-to-face customer contact
Other freestanding components could also include long-term care and assisted-living facilities, an education center, fitness/wellness center, and a daycare facility for the children or elderly dependents of employees. Complementary medicine and retail services may also be provided, combined with or adjacent to high-volume traffic areas such as the main entrance or the medical office building.
Sandrick, K. 2005. “Flextime: Hospital Spaces Bend to Meet Changing Demand.” Health Facilities Management (18) 3.”
(Hayward 205-210)

Hayward, Cynthia. Healthcare Facility Planning: Thinking Strategically. ACHE Management Series Book, 20051101. VitalBook file.

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