By Devon Maresco
Healthcare establishments have some of the most stringent and specific space demands of any commercial facilities. Between patients, staff, visitors, assets, and the facilities themselves, it’s no surprise that healthcare space management is one of the most complex facilities management modalities. There are also the many verticals to consider: everything from dentistry and optometry to critical care and oncology facilities. Facilities Managers have their work cut out for them.
While many conventional best practices can help optimize healthcare facilities, best practices aren’t always enough. These complex environments need more. Effective space management for the healthcare industry means going the extra mile to consider not just the needs of space, but also its context within the continuum of care. To that end, here’s a look at nine hospital space management tips to optimize space accessibility, utilization and effectiveness.
- Separate space and function. Identify static vs. dynamic spaces in the facility and coordinate around these parameters. You can use an urgent care room as a triage point in an emergency situation. You can’t repurpose the MRI room for anything other than imaging. Define and understand these parameters to get a clearer picture of space.
- Inpatient vs. outpatient. In the same manner as identifying static vs. dynamic space in facilities, distinguish between inpatient and outpatient. These two designations both have an impact on space utilization. They allow you to plan for quick, flexible space vs. extended occupation and more rigid governance. Both play vital roles in governing facilities, but require a different mindset to optimize utilization.
- Adopt agility. Ever wonder why general equipment is on casters? Mobility is vital. Healthcare happens in real-time, which means adopting agility and contingencies as demands change. FMs need multiple readymade plans for different segments of facilities, as part of scenario planning.
- Correlate processes. There’s not always time for a level-set when situations change. Strong processes for facility utilization are key in controlling how, when, and what space looks like at any given moment. FMs need to create processes with checks and balances that govern how space adapts to need.
- Standardize, but stay flexible. A strong baseline will pave the way for better flexibility in healthcare environments. Symposium Room B might be a vaccination clinic today and a PT environment on Thursday, but its core purpose is to host lectures. Establishing the baseline enables adaptability and extrapolates the opportunities of a given space.
- Consider visitors. Between security checkpoints and restricted access areas, larger healthcare facilities can feel like a maze to visitors and even float nurses who’ve worked there for years. Wayfinding is paramount. Make clear labeling and wayfinding installations part of the core premise of inclusive facilities management.
- Think about cost centers. In large healthcare facilities like hospitals, facility managers need to consider the different lines of business and how they coexist within a shared space. Stack planning is a great way to visualize specific cost centers and their prevalence within a floor plan. For example, if radiology takes up 22% of available space and is a static occupant within facilities—but only generates 12% revenue as a value-add service—does it make sense to keep it? High-level decision-making like this is imperative to keep facilities accessible and profitable.
- Make minor improvements. Small facility improvements go a long way in improving patient experience. Automated door mechanisms. Motion sensitive lights. Motorized curtains. These small amenities enhance the appeal of facilities and improve interaction with them. They have the power to contribute to a better patient experience, or even assist in delivering a higher standard of care.
- Emphasize CMMS. There’s a wealth of high-value equipment in healthcare facilities. It’s imperative that equipment remains functional and accessible, which means having a system to prioritize repairs and maintenance. FMs need to coordinate with on-site and vendor maintenance to maximize equipment uptime. A CMMS system is the best way to coordinate this, and to manage assets from a cost standpoint.
What is healthcare space management within the context of a care environment? For doctors, nurses and specialists, it’s the ability to access and utilize critical resources. For patients, it’s comfort and support as they navigate recovery. For visitors and family, it’s convenience and navigability in an unfamiliar place. Great space management enables all of this, and more.
Facility managers operating within the healthcare environment should heed the tips above as they assess facilities. Alongside FM best practices, they provide the mindset needed to think about space from every perspective, and make sure it meets all expectations.