By Devon Maresco
Healthcare environments are incredibly complex spaces to manage. Not only do facilities managers face unexpected levels of demand and varying forms of need, they’re also dealing with mixed spaces. It’s difficult to use an MRI room for anything other than what it’s intended for; meanwhile, a general treatment room can become anything from a triage station to a space for ultrasounds, inoculations, and more. The sheer number of factors in-play make healthcare space planning an arduous, yet necessary task.
How can healthcare facility managers account for the many unpredictable variables present in a hospital, while orchestrating space that’s agile, accessible, and available? It takes no shortage of resources, including healthcare space planning software. Putting the pieces together in a facility that meets the demand of the local population is a full-time job that’s ever-evolving.
The goal of space planning in healthcare facilities? To ensure every patient has access to the medical care they need, when they need it—and that medical professionals can administer that care with as few physical obstacles as possible.
What is healthcare space planning?
Space planning is about purposing space to meet the needs of the people using it. In a hospital, it means allocating space to treat patients, and optimizing that space so physicians can deliver care.
For example, consider a hospital’s oncology wing. How much of the wing does the hospital need to devote to testing facilities? How much to chemotherapy? What percentage of space needs to go to waiting rooms for family and caregivers? Hospitals need to plan for these demands as they orchestrate space. In doing so, they ensure appropriate facilities are always available to the people who need them.
Space planning in healthcare facilities also occurs at the macro level. For example, it might mean putting the radiology department near the orthopedic wing, in order to promote the relationship between these two business units. This also factors into navigability for patients and physicians. The less ground there is to cover between affiliated areas of the hospital, the better.
Even HIPAA compliance and safety factor into space planning. It’s all about controlling the flow of traffic and instituting access points between sensitive areas.
The benefits of healthcare space planning
Bringing healthcare facilities together through thoughtful space planning affords patients and physicians alike numerous benefits. Here’s what good space planning translates into at a practical level:
- Better availability of facilities to meet the needs of patients
- Easier navigability for patients, family, and healthcare staff
- Faster-paced operations that benefit from streamlined layout
- Physicians have access to facilities that enable better patient care
- Enhanced safety, security, and privacy in well-orchestrated spaces
- Fewer overlaps and interruptions in facilities ensure smoother interactions
Space planning effectively makes healthcare facilities accessible. Patients or family visiting will know exactly where to find what they’re looking for, and those relying on the facilities will get the care they need from space orchestrated to support them.
From an administrative standpoint, healthcare space planning makes it easier for facilities managers to optimize space. Hospitals are other healthcare facilities are only so large, which means using precious square footage in the best possible ways. Planning influences execution, which gives managers the baseline they need to govern facilities based on demand.
How does healthcare space planning software help?
Hospitals operate 24 hours a day, with an ebb and flow of need and demand around the clock. Space planning software provides the tools and resources to realize these varying levels of demand in real time. It gives facility managers access to space insights that drive better decision-making, ultimately leading to a better standard of patient care.
Space planning occurs on two levels: proactive and reactive. Proactive planning means recognizing demand for space and tailoring facilities. For example, if the hematology department is overcrowded, it might mean taking over the phlebotomy lab next door and transitioning phlebotomy to a bedside practice. It’s about recognizing the operational demands of facilities and balancing space accordingly.
From a reactive standpoint, space planning is about continuing to meet ongoing demand for space. If the hospital is outsourcing more of its pathology to an off-site lab, the pathology department may become a new dialysis department, to better-support the growing number of patients who require this treatment.
Space planning software enables both proactive and reactive space planning capabilities. Facility managers can use it to sandbox new floor plans, understand space allocation, and contextualize space based on how it’s used. Best of all, software makes space planning agile in hospital environments that are increasingly dynamic.
Enable the highest level of patient care
Well-planned, agile healthcare facilities have rippling effects. Shorter wait times for treatments and tests. Less strain on patients and family as they navigate facilities. Improved safety, accessibility, and HIPAA compliance. It all roots back to how facility managers organize and purpose space, and the governance associated with those spaces.
As demand for healthcare rises and hospitals become more dynamic and agile, even more opportunities for space planning become clear. One space, one purpose still defines some areas of healthcare facilities, but for all others, there are many opportunities to meet patient demand. Planning for agile, multifaceted spaces is the path forward for the future of healthcare.
Keep reading: Healthcare Space Utilization: Caregiving at Capacity