Medical facility construction has shifted considerably in recent years. Now, there is a heightened sense of urgency to remodel, expand or build new clinics and hospitals to remain a provider of choice.
What are other facilities doing to upgrade? And how have revised operational guidelines, emerging technology, and updated infection control protocols influenced the latest trends in healthcare construction and design?
Healthcare facilities in small and rural Midwest communities are sometimes at a disadvantage due to smaller populations and revenue streams. But there’s a shift taking place to improve medical representation to these sometimes underserved areas. Some communities are building adaptive healthcare facilities that can provide a wide range of services. They may also provide a niche service that makes their facility a destination for patients seeking unique types of treatment.
To help keep costs in check, some opt for a design-build construction model to simplify the process. This model typically has faster turnaround times and facilities management and project owners have more control over the project.
2. Designated Point of Entry Screening Areas
When the pandemic hit, many facilities had to set up make-shift screening areas for admitting patients. It wasn’t uncommon to simply set up a folding table near the entryway where a nurse was stationed, armed with a no-touch thermometer, masks, and a patient questionnaire.
Going forward, the need will likely persist, and healthcare facilities will want to designate space for pre-screening that is equipped with the necessary technology, furnishings, and power. Remodeling and reconfiguring entryways to provide privacy and ensure smooth traffic flow while pre-screening will be a top priority.
3. Upgraded Air Filtration and HVAC Systems
A main defense against infection control is a healthcare facility’s HVAC system. These systems came under intense scrutiny during the pandemic to ensure they complied with CDC recommendations. Some areas of a facility might require isolation rooms that must remain in a negative pressure state.
Avoid common healthcare HVAC mistakes by working with a reputable contractor who specializes in healthcare systems. Not only do HVAC systems help to filter out harmful pathogens, they also play a critical role in patient care and comfort and healthcare worker satisfaction.
4. Updating Flooring and Finishes
Nothing can date a facility faster than outdated flooring and finishes. For the most part, healthcare facilities rely on hard-surface flooring like luxury vinyl tile, sheet vinyl, or rubber.
An advantage of luxury vinyl tile is not only its ability to repel fluids and stay clean, it’s also easier to maintain and replace damaged pieces without having to rip up the entire floor. In general, commercial carpeting is used less and less in care facilities due to its higher maintenance and concerns over its ability to trap allergens or bacteria.
5. Adaptable and Flexible Spaces
Hospitals and clinics are keenly aware of the need to shift focus in response to emerging healthcare situations. Modern facilities provide spaces that may not be dedicated to a single function. Instead, patient rooms may transform into a surgical suite, or admitting rooms may be used for emergency procedures.
Equipping spaces with multi-use furnishings such as sleeper sofas or convertible tables is another way to remain flexible. This type of approach to healthcare can allow a facility to adapt quickly to the most pressing needs of patients, their families, and the community.
6. Inviting Exteriors
Healthcare facilities, especially those located in the Midwest and rural communities, are moving away from institutional appearances. The focus is on creating inviting entrances and pleasing exteriors. Don’t underestimate the importance of attractive and inviting landscapes and highly visible and clear wayfinding signage.
Helping to put patients at ease from the moment they drive in the parking lot is an important aspect of patient care that shouldn’t be overlooked, especially when patients are already experiencing heightened anxieties. If a patient is frustrated and unable to find where they need to go, it could delay critical care and start things off on the wrong foot.
7. Waiting Areas
Typical waiting areas in hospitals and clinics used to consist of a large open room with rows of chairs. Not only do facilities need to consider social distancing as part of their waiting room layout, they also need to consider privacy and comfort. Waiting rooms also provide a first impression, helping to set the tone for their visit.
Providing smaller, private seating areas with a variety of seating options, screens, and decor is on trend, helping to create a more homey feel. For an added touch, incorporate artwork from local artisans to reinforce a community atmosphere.
8. Improved Traffic Flow
Some larger medical centers have had multiple renovations and additions over the years, creating a virtual labyrinth of hallways and floors to navigate through. Taking a fresh look at the flow of a facility can significantly improve patient experiences and minimize the spread of infection.
Some facilities may want to consider which types of rooms and procedures are located on certain floors and reconfigure them to minimize unnecessary cross traffic. Others may need to move the entrance to the emergency department to make it more accessible for emergency vehicles or incoming patients. Scrutinizing the best use of space and how people get from point A to point B most efficiently can help improve how quickly someone gets the care they need.
9. Touchless Features
Many medical facilities are equipped with automatic, no-touch entryways, but a surprising number of aging facilities haven’t upgraded other commonly touched fixtures like faucets, soap dispensers, receptacles, and toilets. Infection control specialists can work with a healthcare construction management company to conduct a facility assessment. They will help identify areas that need upgrading and prioritize them according to their use and compliance requirements. Where appropriate, antimicrobial-treated fixtures and finishes may be used when touchless features aren’t an option.
Caring for patients and caring for the environment can go hand in hand. Many facilities are placing an emphasis on “green buildings” in response to concerns of climate change and other environmental issues. Thoughtful and strategic healthcare design can be both beautiful and functional while supporting green initiatives.
Consider whether your facility should be certified by the U.S. Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED), and work with a qualified architect and construction team. Together, you can reduce waste, emissions, and water and energy consumption.
It’s easy to get caught up in the latest healthcare construction trends or what other big-city facilities are doing. But it’s important to consider the unique needs of your facility, its patients and caregivers, and its role in the community.
If you’re considering a healthcare construction project, be sure to download our free healthcare construction guide below with additional considerations. We’re also happy to talk through your needs and provide guidance on how to achieve your goals. Contact our team of healthcare design, construction and furniture solutions professionals today.