Integrating Medical Equipment Planning into Your Design & Planning

Integrating Medical Equipment

With an aging population, rapid changes in technology, and a shift in patient delivery methods, healthcare facilities are adapting to maintain their competitive edge and provide higher quality care. These adaptations are coming in the form of new state-of-the-art facilities, remodels, and expansions. The 2016 Hospital Construction Survey found that 70 percent of its respondents are either working on or planning a construction project within the next three years. What are their priorities? In the same survey 86 percent said patient satisfaction was “very important” when designing new facilities. Researchers noted that the patient experience took front and center in design considerations. Many hospitals went so far as to commission patient experience studies and appoint new positions such as “chief patient experience officer.” Sixty-three percent even included the public in the design process.

Medical equipment has a profound impact on patient experience and satisfaction, according to one recent report. How so? Thirty-seven percent of patients said they were dissatisfied because they could not receive lab or imaging results during their appointment. Updated equipment and efficient office management software can speed up diagnoses and lab results, as well as decrease patient wait times. How can you integrate medical equipment planning into the design process of your new or expanding facility? Consider these tips.

Selection Criteria for Present and Future

Taking a strategic approach to medical equipment selection will ensure your facility is not only prepared to provide the highest quality care when it opens, but for years to come. While it’s hard to predict the future, planners can review new developments and trends to get an idea of where the industry is heading. Make flexibility an explicit design goal, and ensure design guidelines account for future changes. Document assumptions for future use. Are you investing in equipment that is flexible, able to expand as the organization grows and technology evolves? Consider these three areas of selection criteria.

  • Clinical: What clinical requirements must the equipment meet? Patient safety and the ability to provide effective care fall in this stage of evaluation. What characteristics of the medical equipment in question will help meet patient safety requirements and efficacy of care?
  • Operational: How will new equipment change workflow? Operational issues, including clinical IT requirements, fall into this area. Will the equipment help staff work more efficiently? Will it increase productivity? Will it bring certain services in-house, streamlining the patient experience? Will the new tools allow physicians to perform procedures that weren’t offered before or were offered but can be improved now? An example might be tools like the Da Vinci Surgical System, which allows surgeons to use minimally invasive techniques for surgeries that previously required completely opening the patient.
  • Financial: What are the financial impacts of the new equipment? Include the costs of acquisition, service, maintenance and other on-going costs. Don’t ignore potential revenue as well. Is the new equipment unique to your area, drawing in patients you may not otherwise have treated? Will you be able to perform services in-house that you were previously outsourcing?

Build Your Team

Selecting medical equipment requires input from various departments, levels of staff and input from those outside the organization. Your team might include sponsors, such as government agencies, local corporations or individual contributors. Within the organization, hospital administrators are the obvious choice. However, don’t overlook clinical and non-clinical user groups. The staff that interact with the equipment every day will provide invaluable input. Lastly, your design team may include architects, engineers, consultants, vendors, contractors and sub-contractors.

Clearly define the role of each team member through an equipment responsibility matrix. Who will handle large stationary equipment? Assign a separate team to minor, mobile equipment. Who will be in charge of allocating space and ensuring that IT requirements are in place? How will the approval process work for the budget, equipment selection and changes to selected items? What is the BIM design process? BIM is critical for collaborative planning. It helps teams visualize where equipment will reside in the allocated space. For example, teams can view a 3D model of a specific operating room, get input from surgeons, nurses and assistants, and decide the best configuration. All this can be done before construction even begins.

Create Specific Definitions

We already briefly discussed the importance of documenting expected future use. Flexibility must be an explicit goal. Here are some other areas that require specific definitions.

  • What best practices and planning standards will be used? For example, will you use Facilities Guidelines Institute (FGI) rules?
  • Define worst case. In order to prepare for the worst scenarios, document what those might be. What could go wrong with the equipment? What is the worst case of buying and not buying?
  • Be specific when using words that are common in the industry. For example, when discussing “standard” and “unique” rooms, what defines those two words? What are the differences in function, size and equipment found within the rooms? Create room data sheets and BIM models for each to ensure they are laid out efficiently for staff, and are comfortable for staff.

Create an Integrated Clinical Environment

For hospitals to fully reap the benefits of their medical equipment investment, the equipment must be part of an integrated clinical environment (ICE). ICE gives hospitals the ability to create an “Internet of Things” around every single patient. It connects all devices and equipment, collects data and uses that data to direct other devices. ICE platforms offer huge benefits, including greater efficiency, fewer errors and increased productivity. ICE brings together data quickly to help medical teams identify patterns and make decisions before a problem really develops. Data collection also saves staff from having to enter patient records manually. Here are just some of the areas the benefits of ICE can be seen.

Patient Care Systems

  • Physiologic Monitoring
  • Automated Medication Dispensing
  • Operating Theatre Integration/Automation
  • “Intelligent” Patient Rooms

Clinical Information Systems

  • Pharmacy Information System (PHIS)
  • Hospital Information Systems (HIS)
  • Laboratory Information Systems (LIS)

Hospital Information Systems (Supportive)

  • Refrigerator Temperature MonitoringPoint of Care Verification System
  • Point of Care Computing & Charting
  • RTLS Tracking & Management Systems

Planning for the Future

Growth is good, and inevitable for a successful health system. Before you start building, plan for future flexibility. For example, provide excess capacity in the electrical and IT closets to ensure you can grow with technology advancements. Include these other planning strategies:

  • Depress slabs in areas with excessive floor raceway requirements
  • Provide universal structural ceiling grids
  • Segregate structural bays with capacity to accommodate excessive weight and vibration stability
  • Provide additional access points for data and electrical service

An effective planning process will ensure your facility meets patient needs, complies with “quality of care” standards, meets patient expectations and is prepared for future growth.

Tiffany Lok
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Tiffany Lok