May 5, 2020

This article was written by Carl Fleming.

Healthcare leaders are busier than ever, focused on weathering and responding to the worst of COVID-19 and, as things stabilize in their markets, planning for future resiliency.

Coming into 2020, one of the most significant challenges they faced was managing strategic growth during the potential shift from a fee-for-service reimbursement model to value-based payments. Then COVID-19 changed the game and completely disrupted capital spending. Moving forward, the ability to drive hard ROI and benefits from capital expenditures will become even more important and complicated under a system focused on value and the myriad care model changes likely to come in the post-COVID-19 pandemic world.

Headshot of DPR Construction's Carl Fleming
Carl Fleming advises DPR's healthcare customers on how a builder can help them realize their goals for patient care. Photo courtesy of DPR Construction

Two of the largest line items of capital spending belong to technology and facilities (construction), a trend that sees no letting up in the foreseeable future. Interestingly, technology initiatives and construction projects are not always in-sync, which is a problem for organizations that have not yet fully embraced the digital transformation of the care environment.

The resulting disconnects between the digital environment and built environment stymies innovation at scale, leading to less than optimal return on investment.

There are several drivers behind the importance of blending the digital and build environments:

  • Regulatory demands of value-based care for reimbursement and quality of care, which are placing an even greater importance on the patient experience and the location in which services are performed. The uptick in telehealth services during the pandemic has cemented the viability and necessity of digital venues for patient care. How healthcare systems will be reimbursed for telehealth and how they deal with HIPAA will be key moving forward.
  • Providers closely evaluating capital investments to ensure they create convenience for patients, reduce costs, provide continuity of care, and maintain or improve quality, all of which are critical under a post-pandemic value-based reimbursement.
  • Technology demands of consumerism (provider and patient) are placing unfamiliar strains on healthcare organizations, operations and technology infrastructure.
  • Consolidation of provider organizations result in a broad mix of technology systems and physical assets, inhibiting standardized care models and eliminating efficiencies required to thrive in a value-based care model.

The interior of a modern patient room.
Today's healthcare facilities include more digital technology than ever and that growth will continue. Photo courtesy of Rien van Rijthoven

As we begin to plan for the future, we have to ask: how can we start being smarter about making it all work together? It’s by connecting the dots between system strategy, clinical operations, technology and facilities planning design and construction that we start to see the challenges and opportunities from multiple perspectives. These insights produce a more comprehensive vision and path to succeed in this new value-based paradigm.

As also seen in the recent RX for a Successful Healthcare Project study, engaging the right internal and external partners early and often will reveal insights to maximize efficiencies in workflow, enhance the provider and patient experience and create spaces that allow provider organizations to optimize capital expenditures and thrive in the new paradigm of value-based care.

A video conferencing tool in use among big room partners
Video conferencing helps project partners in a Big Room collaborate in the early stages of a North Carolina healthcare project. Social distancing doesn't mean key partners have to work in silos. Photo courtesy of DPR Construction.

Three concepts we believe healthcare providers should consider are:

  • Build a team and use it – In addition to the management consultants often engaged to guide strategic visioning sessions, healthcare systems should also engage designers and construction managers earlier in the process to provide insight to growth strategies and industry pressures. Viewing these groups as partners instead of commodities provides new perspective with the ability to better align future building initiatives with overall healthcare system goals.
  • Get into the details – As healthcare systems expand, we’ve seen situations where aligning IT systems with newly-acquired assets are taken for granted. This leads to more time and money being spent, which erodes the hoped-for return on investment.
  • Use data in new ways – We have more systems than ever to support good decision making and, ultimately, day-to-day operations. The entire lifecycle can be made more efficient, from programs like Modelogix used during preconstruction services or VueOps, which takes existing virtual design and construction tools and leverages them as a true asset management suite.

Putting it all together best positions healthcare organizations to realize maximum ROI for both their facility and digital investments. Ultimately, it will help make the patient and provider experience more seamless, as well, fulfilling the vision we share for the next generation of healthcare facilities.