By Devon Maresco
Marketing Coordinator

It’s easy to think about a hospital in terms of its individual units. Oncology is on the fourth floor and urgent care is on the first floor. Even nurses and physicians tend to reduce the hospital ecosystem to wherever they’re staffed or what a patient’s current need is. The holistic sense of the hospital ecosystem can get lost in the moment—you’re not thinking about radiology when your patient needs hematology. Nevertheless, it’s important for facility managers to have a top-down view of the hospital to show how these seemingly compartmentalized units come together in healthcare stack planning.

Seeing the hospital from the view of a stack plan sets the stage for better patient care and general healthcare administration. Radiology isn’t just a space on the second floor—it’s adjacent to orthopedics, to ensure injured patients get results quicker. Access to oncology is far away from the infectious disease unit to protect those with compromised immune systems. The stack plan brings clarity to the hospital ecosystem—it recognizes individual business units as part of a continuum of patient care.

What is healthcare stack planning?

Stack planning is the practice of allocating space for different purposes within facilities. This happens at a high level, and a stack plan shows the general distribution of space by type, floor, department, use, or other values that make it easy to categorize. For example, a stack plan might show that patient waiting areas account for 23% of the hospital’s total space. Or, it might show that radiography occupies space on three different floors.

Healthcare stack planning is an opportunity for facility managers to take a top-down look at facilities and make sure the current space distribution meets the operational needs of the people relying on them. By itself, a stack plan offers quick information about facilities and how they’re used. In conjunction with other metrics like space utilization, it provides context for everything from cost-savings initiatives to efficiency improvements.

Would it be smarter to switch the oncology department with pediatrics, so it’s closer to hematology? Where in the hospital is there room to put a new respiratory therapy station? Is there an opportunity to consolidate optometry into the ophthalmology department? Stack plans make it simpler to gain an understanding of space at a high level, to drive better decision-making about where and how to use precious space in healthcare facilities.

The benefits of healthcare stack planning

A keen understanding of space distribution within facilities paves the way for optimization improvements on both operational and cost fronts. Above all, it also enhances the ability of physicians and facilities to deliver a higher level of patient care to those who need it. Some of the many benefits associated with thoughtful stack planning include:

  • More efficient use of facilities, from both cost and operations standpoints
  • Better understanding of space allocation and utilization
  • Purposeful allocation of space to support the needs of patients and physicians
  • Context for broader facilities data such as utilization and occupancy
  • Insights and opportunities to repurpose or reallocate space
  • Smarter spatial layout of facilities, to streamline accessibility

Stack plans shed light on essential space distribution and ensure these spaces serve their intended purpose. Is there ample waiting room for concerned family waiting for a patient in surgery? Where is it in context to the surgical suite? How many post-op beds are there, and what allocation of them is nearest to that specific surgical suite? Stack planning brings patient care and the patient experience together, cohesively.

How does healthcare stack planning software help?

In healthcare facilities, stack planning is an important part of keeping up with demand. Between census changes, demand for different services, and the cost of maintaining different business lines, stack plans illuminate how effective healthcare facilities are at tailoring space to deliver patient care. Stack planning software brings all of this imperative data into one dashboard, to provide quick access to insights that improve decision-making.

Healthcare stack planning software is also integrative. As healthcare facilities become more and more digitized, the stack plan serves as a backdrop for contextualizing other metrics. A hospital may find that pediatrics accounts for 21% of facilities, but only brings in 8% revenue. Or, the stack plan may show 40 post-op beds at a 29% utilization rate, indicating opportunity to consolidate. Software makes it easy to compare and contrast different metrics to make better decisions about how to organize, orchestrate, and allocate space.

Understand healthcare facilities at a glance

Hospital administrators need access to healthcare stack planning. Not only is it one of the best ways to understand space allocation in a hospital setting—it’s an important tool in space planning and utilization, as well as operations management. When it comes to something as important as the health and wellbeing of patients, facility orchestration can’t be anything less than perfect.

At a macro level, the stack plan drives better decision-making about where and how to ensure patients get the help they need. Whether that’s reallocating space based on census demand or organizing business units to facilitate a smoother patient experience, the stack plan delivers invaluable high-level insights.

Keep reading: Hospital Facility Management Software and the Patient Experience