Newsletter Sign Up

IMAGE CREDIT: Lawrence Anderson Studio

A Prescription for Change in the World of Healthcare

Adaptability is the big take away from ASHE design conference

Recently, industry leaders from hospitals, design firms and construction companies were in Phoenix. They came together for the American Society for Healthcare Engineering Planning, Design and Construction Summit. That’s a mouthful, so let’s just call it what everyone there called it: ASHE PDC. The focus was to get together and trade ideas on how to make healthcare spaces the best they can be. Members of the DIRTT team were there and here’s what they learned. 

Adaptation is crucial

Over the course of three days, there were more than 60 sessions. No matter the topic, in most cases the big take away was adaptability. Change is coming to every corner of healthcare. Organizations that want to stake a claim on their future must change, too. On all fronts. In a lot of cases, that starts with the buildings these healthcare providers are in. 

Healthcare providers have a lot to consider

IMAGE CREDIT: ©Francis Zera /

Disruption is here

Profit margins in healthcare are shrinking. This isn’t news. But now high-profile disruptors like Amazon and Apple are opening their own clinics. CVS acquired health insurance provider Aetna to increase their presence. These players are taking on low-complexity, high-profit patients. That puts more pressure on healthcare provider’s bottom line. Administrators need to do more with less. That means a trend towards renovating old spaces instead of building new ones. To ensure return on investment, those spaces have to be as useful as possible. What should those spaces look like? And how do they work? 

Take it all off-site

During one ASHE PDC session, experts broke down data they got from designers, administrators and consultants in a three-year poll. Off-site fabrication has become at thing.  Almost 65% of those who answered have used off-site fabrication. And 97% can see the value in it. It’s easy to see why.  Going prefabricated means fast installs. Clean job sites. Speed to market. It makes a lot of sense. And makes your dollars go farther.  

Off-site fabrication

Off-site fabrication

IMAGE CREDIT: Mike Roemer Photography

Take time to plan for future tech

For teams designing hospitals, technology is always top of mind. Tech evolves fast. Five years is an eternity when you want to stay on the cutting edge. Hospitals need a way to future-proof their spaces and protect their investments. But how can you plan for something that doesn’t even exist yet? 

Modular construction is a great option. The pieces go together like high-tech LEGO®. They come apart, too. Knowing that, you can design the best room that works for you right now. Then, when you find a piece of tech that improves the patient experience, just swap it in. Take a panel off a wall instead of tearing it down. Run new electrical or data cabling without having to shut down the whole space. An update that would take three days with traditional construction takes three hours with a modular solution. Nobody wants to renovate their renovation, but knowing you can doesn’t hurt. 

Technology can evolve at any time

IMAGE CREDIT: Emily Hagopian

Make a smarter mock-up

That’s one side of the tech equation. The other side is how architects and contractors are using tech in the design process. Architectural documents are being converted into fully realized 3D visualizations of the space. These speak to the client in ways that line drawings can’t. Using integrated BIM software also makes communication among the trades better. And keeping everyone on the same page is the best way to keep a project on track. 

3D visualizations of the space

That’s why more hospitals are insisting on mock-ups during design. It’s a great way to bring people who will actually use the space in to test drive it. Feedback from someone who will use a room means small changes make a huge difference. Imagine moving a med-gas outlet a few inches to the right. It doesn’t seem like much. But what if that keeps a nurse from having to reach over the bed? This improves the patient experience. Staff aren’t straining themselves over and over making a safer workspace. 

Technology is streamlining the old-school mock-up process. Clients used to walk into a cardboard version of the space, look around and leave Post-its behind. It wasn’t impressive. Maybe the feedback would trickle down to the trades, but not always. Plus, it’s wasteful. Once the test was over, it all went in the garbage. Now designers are using virtual reality to bring mock-ups to the next level. Video game technology immerses end users in the space. They can move things around. They test it instantly. They weigh the cost of these changes on the spot. It makes it that much easier to adapt. 

Using virtual reality mockups to streamline process 


Get ready to flex

Cities are seeing an increase in neighborhood hospitals. These compact buildings offer less financial burden. It also means fewer people through the door. That’s great for lowering infection and mortality rates. Smaller hospitals are also more scalable than something large and centralized. There’s a challenge, though. These hospitals can’t afford for these rooms to be empty. Even for a little while. The answer is multiuse spaces. 

Admin and diagnostic rooms are busy nine-to-five weekdays. Rooms in the emergency department are jammed evenings and weekends. Having a space that can flex and work for both is the new normal. Busy rooms make infection prevention a challenge, but there are solutions. Architects are designing to reduce touch points leading to less germ transmission. Mold resistant wall panels are easy to clean. Hospital-grade materials prevent infection transfer onto the walls. And into the walls. That makes flex spaces that much safer. 

The PDC Summit in the rearview mirror and that’s the breakdown. It’s time to look ahead. How will you adapt?

Share this article

Copied to clipboard

© DIRTT 2024