Updated: Nov 9, 2022
When it comes to designing hospitals, there is a great deal of planning necessary for design, layout, technology, people, and other visual and functional elements. In 2021, 60% of projects completed were renovation vs the other 40 % of projects that were new construction, according to Healthcare Design Magazine. There are thousands (3K +) of healthcare projects still in progress and looking to be completed within this year.
There is consistently a need for hospitals that are updated with technology, staff/ patient needs, and adaptable layouts. Up-to-date healthcare is very important to keep things sanitary, functional, peaceful, and efficient. Since hospitals are a place where people come for a variety of reasons, these facilities should be designed thoughtfully and thoroughly with both patients and staff in mind.
The Coronavirus heavily impacted the world with situational complications that affected changes made within healthcare industry and the design of these spaces. What was seen in the past few years were experiences that were out of the ordinary; hundreds of thousands hospitalized each day, exhausted/ underpaid staff, and a shortage of supplies and space to treat people, to name only a few things.
Engineers, designers, architects, etc. are all now thinking about implementing new changes that can help these situations if they were to ever rise again.
Technology Advances in Healthcare
Healthcare technology can transform the daily operations of the facility. The use of tech in healthcare can effectively enhance the productivity, efficiency, and ease of getting help from a medical professional. An example of popular healthcare technology that is widely used today is Telehealth, or Mobile Health, offering more efficient healthcare (depending on the issue) at a lower cost. Read here to see more recent developments in healthcare tech.
Artificial Intelligence (AI) technology is something up and coming that is beginning to be used in the healthcare industry. These machines are being used in hospitals and research centers to identify new drugs, process tomography scans, and provide accuracy of diagnosis and monitoring patients among other things. This allows the robotic systems to perform routine tasks that are normally done by skilled healthcare workers so that they can spend more time tending to more patients in need of help.
On the other hand, AI can also have some negative effects on the health industry because they are in fact robotic devices dealing with real people with issues and various forms of health history and data. They have access to medical computer systems, which can give them control and access to stealing identities, accessing funds, and hacking information from the computer that is linked to certain software.
One of our electrical project engineers, Max Kolomiyets, notes how technology can have a positive impact on todays industries.
"Technology is wonderful in today’s world and makes our lives easier in a lot of industries including healthcare. Upgrading infrastructure is always a plus. Older types of buildings can benefit greatly from technologies like nurse call systems, back-up generators, or even something small like upgraded lighting to LED. Newer technology can help off-load some stress for healthcare workers and make their lives easier by automating some tasks, or making the patients lives safer and more comfortable knowing the hospital / clinic is state of the art."
After having his first child with his wife, Max said "With my newborn arriving just a weeks ago, I can personally say that technology has helped in areas of the healthcare, especially staffing shortages. I remember we were given one nurse, and she was taking care of several patients throughout the evening. All nurses looked like they had a way or monitoring laboring wives remotely and able to communicate to each other through real-time pagers for assistance and quick communication."
This shows one example of how health-tech has evolved today.
Flexible Spaces can Change Everything
When Healthcare crises occur, we learn new methods, practices, and procedures from the negative aspects to better prepare for the future health of our populations.
At Rady’s Children’s Hospital in San Diego, they transformed the healthcare campus when the Covid-19 pandemic first arose. In an article titled, “‘The Future of Hospitals’; Flexible Space for the Next Pandemic”, they found that many healthcare units had shortages of the necessary equipment such as beds and separated waiting rooms, forcing the sick to infect those around them in the same spaces.
Hospitals should be equipped to change floor plans into flexible spaces at any time in case of emergency after experiencing what is needed in the moment. Traditional designs for healthcare facilities are not beneficial for sick patients because of the lack of ventilation and open spaces. At Rady’s Children’s Hospital, they designed the floorplan in the shape of an X with 60 beds that can turn into 20 completely isolated rooms in emergencies. Implementing emergency departments or other intensive care units would be beneficial to advanced healthcare design to provide different spaces for patients.
With many people in a facility, the air ventilation is affected by the quality of the air and sicknesses
that are potentially present. The Pandemic forced healthcare facilities, businesses, and all other types of spaces to reassess their air ventilation systems if they wanted to continue to be open. They found that negative pressure rooms and wards were helpful in maintaining high negative pressure in airborne isolation rooms to decrease the spread of dust and contaminants in the air.
The air flow patterns of the isolation rooms in healthcare facilities must be designed with a single air pass; this will bring the clean air directly from a clean zone into the ill-infested air to slow the spread of diseases when people are in the same space. Identifying these modifications when making HVAC plans will ensure cleaner ventilation to prevent illness spreading through the air.
Technology is one aspect of healthcare we don't realize how vital it is to the infrastructure. Strong infrastructure of a facility can allow for higher quality healthcare, can increase reliability and IT workforce satisfaction overall. A strong network to communicate through and having ample amounts of information storage is important for a healthcare facility to function, in addition to potentially utilizing a data center to store excess data and house network systems will ensure reliability.
Staffing Issues in the Healthcare Industry
Hospital staffing is one issue that healthcare administrations are currently facing since the pandemic because of the influx of residents entering hospitals and the amount of healthcare workers leaving the industry.
Our engineers and designers take into consideration the difficulties of keeping a fully staffed hospital. Since the way that we work is now reshaped by the pandemic we experienced, introducing new methods of work may help the number of staff that continue the same career path.
Some designs that may help with staffing issues will be adjusting the space with moveable equipment or walls to transform a space into a new space efficiently. Being prepared for certain situations can ease the stress of healthcare workers trying to figure out another plan when an emergency is happening.
Healthcare technology is another aspect of the industry that can be modified to help the hospital staff in the facility. When introducing new ways of reading scans, interpreting data or doing other small tasks, this can save workers time and energy, allowing them to give more energy to the most important part: the patient.
During the pandemic, we saw many healthcare workers leaving the industry. When there is an insufficient number of staff, patients end up waiting longer to be seen, there’s more stress on the workers that can lead to making errors. We have seen that in the time of the pandemic, we turned to technologies that aided in supplementing staff shortages. Platforms that allow providers to send out appointment and billing reminders or self-scheduling/ registration helped shortages by not requiring office staff to take time calling patients all day.
Tec Inc. has experience working in many Healthcare systems of different varieties. We are trusted with technology design in addition to MEP Engineering. Many changes can be made within the healthcare industry but creating comfortable spaces that can be changed in emergency, providing other ways for patients to reach providers, and taking into consideration these trends can help facilities run smoother and keep their staff employed.