As long-time healthcare architects, we've always known that designing for flexibility is critical in order to be in a position to adapt to changes in healthcare reform and practices. But never could we have imagined the unprecedented situation we would all find ourselves facing in the current Covid-19 pandemic. In our observations of how facilities around the country are reacting, there are a number of factors that support a hospital's ability to be responsive to a change of the magnitude presented by our current situation:
1. Having an established relationship with an architectural, engineering and construction team. A team that already has familiarity with a hospital's design, staff, and the internal operational flows can quickly assist in the identification and implementation of optimal solutions based on specific needs and objectives.
2. Addressing not only specific needs for Covid-19, but how to return to normal operations. We all hope this pandemic is short-lived, though it is impossible to predict how long it will impact our hospitals. As a result, understanding whether solutions are deemed to be permanent or temporary will impact the approach to implementation. If the solution is permanent, we want to identify potential limitations to future development. If it is temporary, we want to map out a plan for returning the facility to "normal" and understand the likely timeline.
3. Strategic evaluation of viable options. The first step is to evaluate existing facilities within the hospital's control that could be used to relocate ambulatory functions or provide for the emerging needs.
4. As requirements and reimbursements for telemedicine have been relaxed, fully leveraging this option can reduce in-person hospital traffic. Additionally, hospitals are being challenged to become more creative in using technology to provide patient-family connection when in-person visits are not allowed, as well as to streamline functions such as registration in order to limit the amount of time spent in the facility.
5. Finally, while a mobile solution can be costly and somewhat limited in availability, it may still be a viable option. Considerations would include the potential need for connection to existing infrastructure.
Bottom line: change is inevitable. We're working hard to stay abreast of best practices in how hospitals are adapting to one of the most significant health care challenges of our lifetime.
Stephanie PIelich, Healthcare Practice Leader