What to Remember When Renovating Healthcare Facilities

Renovating healthcare facilities brings on its own set of challenges. Here are some things to consider.

By Mackenna Moralez
September 26, 2022

Demand for new construction is at an all-time high, but the amount of space available is still limited. Knowing this, many facilities have undertaken renovations of their current spaces, which for healthcare facilities managers creates challenges.  

The COVID-19 pandemic highlighted design issues within hospitals and other healthcare facilities. To address current needs, companies are taking the time to prioritize what needs to be adjusted in their spaces and how they can renovate them while by ensuring patient safety.  

“To support our healthcare institutions, design planning must be flexible, adaptable and lean,” says David Jaeger, principal healthcare sector leader with HED. “These three attributes provide opportunities in challenging times and avoid the pitfalls of a more rigid facility design. This does not exclude the opportunity for specialization or imply that design should be generic, rather it should be rigorously thought out: a truly flexible space has been planned for the unexpected and can adapt. Today, flexibility and adaptability are more clearly found in patient care units, which over the pandemic had to be modified quickly to support the high degree of contagion. Lean design, with its emphasis on caregiver input, material and cost savings and collaborative design thinking, will continue to be critical in support of better patient flow and cost structure challenges.” 

Collaborating with healthcare facilities staff can bring insight when it comes to design. Creating these spaces requires a change in business culture. Understanding what renovations can and cannot change in a new space based on the needs of those working can be difficult, but best practice research can reveal opportunities and new ideas.  

Related Content: Why Design Plays a Crucial Role in Renovations

“The ways people are treated in healthcare are constantly changing, thus many aspects of planning and design must, as well,” Jaeger says. “A facility that has been designed to anticipate this change will provide huge value over its lifetime specifically because it was designed to be renovated. All areas in healthcare are dynamic and change varies, for instance inpatient care changes incrementally, where cancer care changes almost daily. The environment of care for cancer patients must respond to the exponential growth of new treatments, largely through flexible and adaptable spaces.” 

It remains critical to consider safety when renovating spaces that are still operating. A lack of understanding and education regarding these risks can endanger patients, residents and staff. Without having precautions in place, avoiding cross-contamination can be nearly impossible. Proper training can help construction crews prioritize safety measures when working in a medical environment. 

“The risks are substantial but largely manageable by experienced constructors following established protocols like ICRA (infection control risk assessment),” Jaeger says. “Risks we have seen outside of the projects themselves are the unintended consequences of construction projects on other areas of the operation. For instance, in renovating core functions such as lab or pharmacy, not having backup plans to provide critical needs to the clinical operation can be disastrous.” 

Mackenna Moralez is the associate editor for Healthcare Facilities Today. 


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