Depending on levels of construction knowledge, hospital facility managers and administrators may have different experiences when it comes to healthcare construction or renovation. Those that have been through a construction project know there are numerous critical aspects at play aside from the actual building of a facility.
The healthcare system and its workforce are already strained, and adding complications from healthcare construction mistakes only heightens the stress. Ironically enough, the biggest missteps typically occur long before crews show up on site.
Without proper planning and execution, the project could experience costly delays or potentially threaten the wellbeing of patients and hospital workers.That’s why it’s so important to avoid the following seven healthcare construction mistakes.
The most successful and headache-free healthcare construction projects have the right team members as a foundation from the very start. This group must include more than just the construction manager, architect, facilities team and a handful of administrators.
Include user groups such as nurses, floor managers, and other department heads during the design phase and in each planning meeting to ensure there are no conflicts. Others to invite might include members of a facility’s maintenance, engineering, and IT teams. They will be familiar with where to draw power from, technology requirements, where heating ducts are located, and past issues that need to be addressed. Even a stocking clerk can offer insights into storage needs and locations.
Often, a hospital or healthcare facility will have overlapping services that cater to multiple departments, such as shared exam rooms, check-in desks, procedural rooms, and waiting areas. If that’s the case, be sure to include members from those departments as well to create alignment. Failure to include those who will be most affected by any changes or construction activities in the planning process can create major delays, change orders, and unexpected surprises.
Imagine building a beautiful facility and the transition team responsible for moving and installing equipment shows up, only to discover that a new MRI machine won’t fit through the door. It seems implausible, but this type of scenario isn’t unheard of with inexperienced construction teams.
Furnishings are sometimes considered an afterthought as well, but shouldn’t be. Suitable hospital beds and in-room accessories like carts or recliners, or furnishings in a waiting room or administrative office, need to be budgeted for. Not doing so can result in significant construction scope creep. Furnishings also need to be properly configured to ensure they align with power needs and maximize space.
3. Not Factoring in Extended Lead Times
Supply chain disruption continues to plague every industry, including hospital planning, design, and construction. Items that were readily available two years ago before the onset of the pandemic may now take several months.
Currently, it’s taking up to six weeks to procure ceiling tiles and four months to get commercial doors for healthcare. Expect up to six months for air handling equipment, electrical supplies, and flooring. Some specialty items may take even longer. A construction manager with experience in the healthcare industry will have a better grasp on extended lead times for various materials and equipment, and will plan accordingly.
4. Poor Infection Control and Dust Suppression Measures
Maintaining patient and staff health throughout the construction process is of utmost importance. That’s why a healthcare facility’s infectious control professional is another critical player on the planning team. They will work with the construction manager to conduct an Infection Control Risk Assessment (ICRA).
From there, they can determine proper infection control measures such as sterilization procedures, negative and positive pressure rooms, and ventilation requirements for each area.
Seemingly small decisions like selecting the wrong type of walk-off mats to minimize dust and debris can turn into major issues if not thought through. Another example is improper dumpster placement near an air intake vent which can draw dust into the building. An experienced construction planning team will be familiar with correct dust protection and infection control measures and will know what to avoid.
5. Poor Logistics and Traffic Flow
Identifying how construction crews get in and out of an area is a key to minimizing disruption and yet another way to minimize dust. Identify which corridors will be used, how rooms will be accessed, and where emergency exit routes will be. These will likely change from their previous locations. Then, make sure these changes are clearly communicated to every staff member.
Exterior traffic routes and parking also need to be planned out. This often requires working with city officials to determine how heavy equipment will get to the job site and whether traffic or emergency vehicles will need to be rerouted. Communication and signage is critical; you don’t want an ambulance driver confused about where to go or an injured patient unsure of where a temporary emergency room entrance is located.
6. Scheduling Without Regard for Healthcare Activities
Healthcare construction scheduling has the potential to create major issues if not handled properly. The ICRA becomes an extremely important tool when identifying potential risks, developing a feasible schedule, and communicating to everyone.
Healthcare construction schedules often fall outside the norm of typical commercial construction. Crews can’t necessarily work at night when patients are sleeping, and accommodations need to be made for doctor schedules and emergency procedures. Scheduling of necessary shut downs must be paired with proper backup systems, temporary med-gas, and other life-saving features.
There are many healthcare services that often take place above and below a construction site that need to be accommodated. For example, vibration from construction equipment on one floor could impact highly sensitive surgical equipment on a floor below with dire consequences. Experienced construction workers will know to ask, “What’s below me?” and confirm everything before proceeding.
Everyone needs to be informed about what and when various construction activities are taking place, not just those in the immediate area. Timing and awareness can literally be the difference between life or death when it comes to hospital construction schedules.
7. Choosing an Inexperienced Construction Manager
Working with hospital construction consultants and a construction manager who has experience and in-depth knowledge of the industry can help eliminate these types of costly and disruptive mistakes. A team that regularly works in hospitals and healthcare facilities is familiar with various activities and can take a proactive approach to mitigating risks.