While there is still considerable uncertainty surrounding the overall impact of healthcare reform on the future of the industry, controlling cost and enhancing the patient experience are top of mind for the leadership of many organizations.  Planning ahead and evaluating future capital expenditures present unique opportunities to rein in costs while improving the overall quality of care.  Having a well-designed facility master plan will help in reducing unnecessary capital expenditures and improve your fiscal position by providing a strong framework to evaluate future needs and provide a direction for making these decisions.

Begin with a Facility Master Plan

Facility Master Planning, which utilizes an evidence-based design approach, is so critical in rural environments since they so often do not have the same financial resources as urban or academic institutions.  Incorporating this common sense approach to future planning will assist rural facilities in taking advantage of evidence-based design practices and concepts which will yield a higher level and quality of care being delivered to the patient.  Without a carefully planned facility master plan, a healthcare organization will risk reacting to in-appropriate market influences and commit capital without proper analysis.  These reactions will often reduce margins and burden your organizations ability to make a major investment when the timing is so important.

Evidence-based design coupled with facility master planning has always recognized the value of many design elements such as abundant day-lighting and views to the outside, as well as access to plants and nature.  Evidence-based design supports the direct correlation between access to natural daylight with improved patient outcomes.  Patients with views of nature and access to high levels of daylight have a lower use of pain medications and improved sleep patterns. Natural daylight can also help reduce patient depression, anxiety and stress levels.  Other evidence-based facility master planning principals also include:

Private Patient Rooms

Some design features which are associated with evidence-based design offer better outcomes in multiple areas.  For example, single patient rooms, as opposed to semi-private rooms, are associated with improvements in both infection control and reduced patient stress from noise.  It is also allows for a single-patient room to be designed to provide the patient with better access to natural daylight and views.  Additionally, single-patient rooms typically provide additional space for families and avoid having multiple families within a single room.  There is strong evidence that supports the initiative that a higher quality of care is received with more family engagement.

De-Centralize Nursing Stations

Nurses stations provide an optimal location where facility master planning help deliver better care for patients and reduce noise.  By separating the nursing functions into two distinct areas; a work zone and a public zone, will allow for each zone to be optimally designed for its highest value and intended use.  The work zone can be designed with acoustic privacy and vivid lighting appropriate for the work task environment.  The planning of the public zone can be utilized for engagement and interaction, which can be de-centralized and designed to assist with family support, while avoiding the introduction of working noise into the patient care environment.

Reduce Staff Injuries

The single leading cause of hospital staff back injuries is the result of lifting and transferring patients. Evidence-based design would suggest through the careful use and planning, and the implementation of patient ceiling lifts, these types of injuries can be greatly reduced.  The result is a significant financial gain in addition to the reduced cost of claims and lost workdays for staff.  Installing patient lifts will generally have a return on the investment within a couple of years due to the reduced costs of employee injury compensation claims.

Preparing a facility master plan that incorporate evidence-based design principals is not necessarily a commitment to invest capital.  When executed appropriately, it provides the framework for why and when to invest.  A good master plan provides leadership with the rationale to commit to the investment with a high level of confidence.  For many rural hospitals, having the resources to make decisions on capital investments can be difficult.  However, reducing healthcare costs is an essential business decision for future growth.  These types of commitments stand a greater chance of success if they are based on solid evidence and thoughtful facility master planning, which can help organizations turn strategy into a value-based proposition.

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