America’s hospitals and health systems are focusing more on renovation or expansion than new construction, according to a new survey conducted by Health Facilities Management magazine and the American Society for Healthcare Engineering (ASHE). In fact, renovation or expansion accounted for 73 percent of construction projects at hospitals responding to the survey.
The findings show that hospitals have been working to update or replace their infrastructure to better serve patients and help transition to greater use of information technology (IT). In addition, hospitals are focusing on being environmental stewards through greater use of “green” construction.
Overall, slightly more than one in four respondents (26.1 percent) reported that their organizations have building projects currently under construction. About 15 percent of this total involved new construction, 11.6 percent involved replacement facilities and the remainder covered expansion and renovation. In this latter category, many of the additions or modernization projects were for emergency departments, imaging, surgery areas or cancer centers.
“There’s a lot of ambiguity out there,” said George A. “Skip” Smith, 2011 ASHE president and interim vice president of supply chain/clinical engineering at Catholic Health Initiatives in Hilliard, Ohio. “As we look towards the future, everybody’s trying to figure it out, but nobody knows how it will all play out.”
While the construction increases aren’t dramatic, experts say there’s a clear shift in priorities that characterized previous construction trends to more emphasis on IT and other infrastructure improvements. More than one out of four hospitals were building service systems to accommodate the needs of electronic health records. A third of the 598 responding hospitals reported that they were replacing or upgrading their air handlers or ventilation systems, and one in five was upgrading a data center or planning to.
Survey data confirmed this trend and illustrated the continuing move by hospitals to add features that satisfy patients and families, while providing high quality care. Wireless technologies, in particular, are getting attention. Individual room temperature controls and educational systems each are being incorporated into about a third or more of new rooms.
Elsewhere, hospitals and health systems are focusing on making their building projects more environmentally friendly. More than two out of three respondents said they are specifying so-called “green” materials in most or all of their construction projects. About 60 percent of respondents also said their organization evaluates the cost/benefit of green construction methods for building projects.
The gradual improvement in the hospital construction market comes after a steep downturn that accompanied the nation’s deep recession in 2009, which was only a year removed from health care’s high-water mark in construction in 2008. Hospitals able to pursue construction and renovation projects are cautious in light of a changing economic and health care landscape.
A complete report on the survey findings, including data on financing methods for construction, building types, quality and safety features, can be found in the February issue of Health Facilities Management (www.hfmmagazine.com).
Health Facilities Management is a publication of the American Hospital Association’s Health Forum group for those passionate about designing, building and maintaining safe, efficient and sustainable health care environments.
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