In this series, Healthcare Design magazine asks leading healthcare design professionals, firms, and owners to tell us what’s got their attention and share some ideas on the subject.

Here, Walter Jones, senior vice president of facilities planning and development, Parkland Hospital (Dallas), shares some insights on current healthcare design directions and trends and their application to the design of Parkland’s replacement facility, currently the largest healthcare project under construction in the U.S.

1. Evolving operations

A new building offers an opportunity to examine all aspects of an organization’s operations and procedures that might be improved by the removal of the physical barriers of an outdated facility. However, this “blank sheet of paper” opportunity can cause end users to “go blank” when asked, “How could you do what you do better if all barriers were removed?”  After all, the organization and its staff may have been meeting or exceeding benchmarks, performance measures, and scorings. So why change? The challenge is to show how using today’s evidence-based, patient-centered, healing concepts can help a facility contribute to patient care, healing, and recovery.

2. Remembering visitor safety

Patient safety leads the basis for healthcare design efforts. Many new healthcare facilities are going with an all-private room environment, where family and visitors are encouraged to reside and thus provide another level of safety through their observation. But do current designs provide a safe visitor environment, too?  Is obesity, for example, more prevalent only in your patient population, or are visitors following the same trend and, therefore, requiring some of the same considerations for safe accommodations? Safety must extend to all the populations using the facility.

3. Flexibility in an every-changing world

The 865 patient rooms for the new Parkland Hospital will allow for virtually any service to occupy them, with some slight modifications for specialized equipment. The rooms are same sized and same handed, in similarly organized nursing units throughout the building. Contrary to assumptions that flex increases cost, the repetitive nature of the room and nurse unit design and construction allowed the fabrication of like elements (millwork, etc.) and promoted the use of prefabrication for headwalls and bathrooms, which kept costs within normal ranges. Other major healthcare projects have seen similar cost savings due to all room elements having identical and repetitive construction.

4. Making green dollars and sense

With the U.S. Green Building Council’s approval of LEED v4, the direction to be more environmentally sustainable continues to become more mainstream. Integrating, rather than distinguishing, sustainable strategies and techniques as part of the customary design process makes them less likely to be omitted from a project. Green becomes less specifically environmental and more inclusively dollars and sense.

5. Redefining technology needs

The forces of technological convergence and mobility are placing more powerful tools in the hands and pockets of the care-giving staff. The design standards for the needed space, infrastructure, and budget allotment for the hardware to support this real-time, 24/7 IT network will need to be redefined if they are to adapt to ongoing expansion.

Walter Jones

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