I’m sitting on my boat, albeit tied safely in the slip, thinking how to convert my new purchase of a 12-year-old Trawler powerboat into a modern cruising yacht that will safely carry me up and down the Atlantic Intercoastal Waterway for years to come.

Seems the answer can be garnered from today’s healthcare construction basics. Make certain the structure, exterior, and mechanical/electrical systems are in good working condition and load it up with the newest technology.

All else being somewhat equal, technology is what differentiates the old boat (or an older facility) from the new one and gives new users—in the case of healthcare, the patients and staff—confidence in their vessel.

For example, many healthcare systems are starting to focus on the “small hospital of the future” and doing that effectively due to technology. In the past, the small rural hospital tried to be many things to everyone who came in the door—an extremely challenging task.

Today, the small suburban or rural hospital is often part of a much larger health network, concentrating more on primary care, prevention, and wellness and transporting critical patients, once stabilized, to larger urban facilities with the “Center of Excellence” that meets patients’ specific needs.

Healthcare today also emphasizes multiple points of access into a system/network of caregiving, and technology provides the ability to do that efficiently. This includes electronic medical records, Web-based portals, critical care transport systems, visual conferencing, “smart” ORs, and a raft of new and improved medical equipment, to name just a few.

And regardless of what system we are talking about, it is constantly changing. The small hospital must be designed for flexibility. The newest technology today is the antique of tomorrow.

Organizations can use a well-planned small hospital to be a starting point for future growth that may include simply enlarging the facility or it may be by adding a wellness center, outpatient services facility, doctors’ offices, rehabilitation and long-term care, and more. As the community grows, so does the small hospital grow and adapt.

Throughout this process, the small hospital may provide new avenues to allow the patient to receive the best appropriate care, whether that is through adding specialized services such as cardiac care, cancer treatment or—another popular one in retirement communities-orthopedics (particularly knee and hip replacement).

The small hospital serves as a linchpin in the process that enables the healthcare provider’s entire system to grow and ultimately provide the highest level of service to its clients.

So following this model, I may yet be able to cruise the vast ocean with ease. I’ll take my small boat, make certain she is of sound construction, add the latest navigation technology and explore new possibilities.

As an old nautical saying goes, “Fair winds and following seas.”

Gerry DeWulf is a project executive for DPR Construction, a forward-thinking national general contractor and construction manager that specializes in technically complex and sustainable projects for the healthcare, advanced technology, life sciences, higher education and corporate office markets. With 41 years of construction management and general contracting experience, DeWulf has extensive skill in estimating, value engineering and project supervision. As one of DPR’s healthcare specialists, DeWulf has played an instrumental role in many of DPR’s recent healthcare projects including Banner Health’s Banner Maricopa Health Center in Maricopa, Ariz., Palomar Pomerado Health Foundation’s Palomar Medical Center West in Escondido, Calif., and two new Hybrid ORs for the University of Arizona Health Network.

For more information about DPR Construction, visit www.dpr.com. Gerry DeWulf can be contacted at gerryd@dpr.com.