Healthcare Facility Infrastructure Changes for the Digital Age

Facility managers are now up to the impossible task of deciding when aging infrastructure needs to be updated, but how does technology play a role?

By Mackenna Moralez
March 28, 2022

Hospitals and other healthcare facilities continually look to improve their infrastructure and operations to support  patient care. Whether it’s implementing new sustainable practices, enforcing safety standards or taking on new innovative projects, facilities managers face tough choices of when to upgrade facilities. 

With so many new solutions on the market, managers have to ensure that the upgraded systems are compliant with codes and standards, some of which are constantly evolving

“When starting a new infrastructure project or upgrade, facility managers can promote a safe environment by communicating with designers and architects early in the process to ensure everyone is aligned on the goals of the project and the expected end use of the space,” says Jonathan Hart, technical lead, fire protection engineering with the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA). “To ensure safety standards are being upheld from the jump, facility managers need to be aware of not only the newest codes, but also older codes to ensure infrastructure designed with inspection criteria in mind. Each standard impacting a job interacts with multiple other codes and standards, which can be a monumental task to track during a big project. A collaborative digital tool can help each member of the team stay on the same page, no matter which elements of the job they touch.” 

It is important that managers enlist a trusted partner that can help complete a thorough technology assessment of a facility before adding potential solutions. This allows them to be involved in the planning, design and construction process, potentially eliminating excess costs. During this audit phase, managers can unlock efficiencies within building operations and identify necessary investments to ensure the future readiness of its building.  

“By working with a trusted partner, key healthcare stakeholders can lower the risk of project failure through creative contracting, such as a performance contract,” says Brendon Buckley, senior director, vertical market technology with Johnson Controls. “Through these funding mechanisms, the partner takes on all risk, from design to construction to finance and operations. They assume installation costs, so hospitals and healthcare facilities simply pay for the project outcomes. If a project doesn’t go to plan, the partner assumes the risk and financial costs associated with any setbacks or installation issues, so the healthcare facility teams can focus on their primary mission of care delivery.” 

In addition to a partner, digital tools can provide healthcare facility managers with a holistic view of a facility’s systems, allowing management teams to get a better sense of the way current standards interconnect. This can also help inform the decision-making process around critical and non-critical upgrades.  

“For instance, because facility managers have the most recent building codes and standards readily available on the device of their choice, they can quickly reference them to determine if infrastructure is up to code or if upgrades are needed,” Hart says. “If a system is not up to code, that should be dealt with before other projects take place.” 

Early planning and consultations also are essential when it comes to defining outcomes and having a safety plan in place. By aligning strategies early in a project, leaders can anticipate potential problems or roadblocks. Getting a head start on planning also enables management teams to consider unique needs of a facility to create a customized plan that keeps the mission of the facility in mind and ensures critical upgrades are addressed. 

“The planning process should also be a collaborative one involving team members from the design process all the way through the build process,” Hart says. “With an assortment of perspectives involved in planning, teams can align on the safest, most efficient way to complete the project. These individual benefits of early planning all culminate in the swift passing of acceptance testing and inspections, allowing healthcare facilities to resume operations with better infrastructure and without any delays due to failed inspections.” 

Healthcare facilities can see benefits from integrating systems as operations teams can see and manage building data all in one central location, potentially lowering energy costs. It also enhances communications and workflow while improving overall efficiency through data-driven solutions.  

“Analytics is one of the most dominant focal points of digital transformation and should drive proper technology planning, design, construction and operations in order to achieve business outcomes, streamline care delivery and optimize patient experiences,” Buckley says. “With a more comprehensive and accurate snapshot of building occupant behavior and foot traffic, building managers can optimize safety, health and experience for healthcare professionals, patients and their families.” 

Mackenna Moralez is assistant editor with Healthcare Facilities Today. 

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Topic Area: Information Technology , Renovations

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