Changing Landscape and Challenges in Healthcare Facilities Management

healthcare facilities management

The COVID-19 pandemic has caused major changes and disruptions to all industries over the past year, but especially to the healthcare industry.  In addition to Covid impacts, the healthcare industry is used to ongoing changes related to technology, regulations, and other factors.  Capital programs must continuously adapt to these changes in order to maintain an appropriate level of investment.

What’s changing in the healthcare business that impacts capital programs?

  1. New clinical technologies are continuously being developed and released to the market.  Leading healthcare organizations are always looking to obtain these to provide better care for patients.  These technologies often require upgrading or replacing existing equipment, which requires facility renovations.
  2. External regulations and internal safety and quality requirements are constantly being updated, and are only getting more strict over time.  These include new maintenance work and documentation for the operations team, and new assessments / information to track for the capital team.
  3. Healthcare leaders continuously strive to reduce costs, but are always looking for new investments in capital to increase revenue and volumes.  This leads to doing more work with fewer resources and stretching every dollar of capital to achieve the most investment.
  4. Care models are constantly evolving as healthcare systems evaluate how to best care for their patients in the future.  This includes shifting focus towards ambulatory/outpatient care, setting up more urgent care centers to reduce ED volumes, and investing in education and wellness centers to promote population health.  These shifts require designing and building different types of spaces, and finding ways to build flexibility into construction so future changes/renovations can be made more easily.
  5. The COVID-19 pandemic forced many healthcare organizations to pause their regular business to quickly adapt to setting up field hospitals, testing, and vaccinations sites to address the global threat.  This has led to a backlog of work and operational changes healthcare systems must now implement quickly.

What are some key challenges facing healthcare capital programs based on these changes?

  1. Capital investments often involve renovating existing facilities; which requires working with existing, and often out-dated, infrastructure.  This increases the complexity of design and the cost/duration for construction.
  2. Keeping up with ever-increasing requirements utilizing existing systems and reduced staffing is an ongoing challenge in healthcare.  Managing information using multiple platforms including a (potentially) project management information system (PMIS), emails, financial systems, shared network drives, etc… requires more resources during a time when healthcare systems are looking to cut costs.
  3. Designing and building in healthcare requires working with a very dynamic and wide-ranging group of stakeholders including senior leaders, nurses, doctors, infection control, finance, procurement, materials management, housekeeping, IT, security, etc…   All of these teams are incredibly busy and are also dealing with cutting costs in their own areas.
  4. During a time when care models are changing and new spaces are needing to be built, there is a lack of experienced talent in healthcare capital departments.  Current project managers are learning new requirements and adapting to building different kinds of spaces as care models change; so time for onboarding and training new staff members is limited.

Dealing with a backlog of work strains already strained resources.  Capital programs must assess the backlog of work and assign/hire new resources to execute the associated projects.

Capital Programs are a critical part of the success of healthcare organizations.

Proper and timely investments in new buildings and technologies help position organizations to be successful in the ever-changing landscape of healthcare.  Adapting to the changes and responding to the challenges above will be a priority for these departments moving forward.  In our next blog, we’ll talk about how to address some of these challenges through technology and upgrading business processes.

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