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Industry Updates

Is This Healthcare Construction Project Really Necessary?

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Due to the financial losses from the COVID-19 pandemic, hospitals and healthcare systems are reviewing their new construction projects with added scrutiny. First, they are asking if the construction is even necessary. With the increase in telemedicine, is the extra capacity still needed? 

Second, they’re analyzing gains versus losses. Is the expense of the new construction worth the gains the new facility will realize? Third, and most importantly, can they still afford to complete the new construction? Whether projects are delayed or even cancelled, these important decisions are being made within healthcare management across the country. 

Once the decision is made to proceed with the new project, there are many factors to consider. How can I stay within budget or, better yet, stay under budget? How can I streamline the process and open faster than planned? This is especially true for the healthcare industry. Whether you are launching, renovating or expanding a facility, the medical equipment that will soon sit inside the newly constructed project becomes more important, and your focus soon turns to logistics.

Prior to COVID-19, one of the most rapidly expanding real estate segments was healthcare facilities. Operators found themselves in the midst of an upgrade more often than other industries, with 70 percent of hospitals planning or actively undergoing projects, according to a 2016 Hospital Construction Survey.  

Not surprisingly, time is money in this industry. Installation of services must be timed perfectly, with minimal disruption to patients and healthcare staff. When you consider a delayed opening typically costs a hospital $400,000 to $500,000 in expected revenues per day, it quickly becomes apparent that planning, distribution and logistics are critical investments that will pay for themselves.

The need for well-managed healthcare equipment deliveries is even more dire for smaller facilities. A 25-physician health clinic could lose $125,000 in revenue per day in the event of a delay, and the smaller the operation, the harder it becomes to absorb such a large financial loss.

To ensure an efficient workflow, construction crews should remain in close contact with the supply chain. Updates should be shared every step of the way to avoid redundancies, premature deliveries or a lack of onsite manpower.  

A full-service healthcare equipment and logistics specialist – which sources, assembles, stages, delivers and installs healthcare equipment – can be a construction foreman’s best friend as the project nears completion. Products can be tracked in real time as they’re prepped for delivery in a nearby warehouse, making it easy to adjust schedules and plan with confidence. Also, it’s simply easier to manage a single purchase order instead of hundreds of orders from myriad manufacturers. For example, one exam room, alone, typically requires equipment from more than 20 manufacturers. 

For larger orders, staging equipment in an off-site warehouse makes the delivery process more efficient. Equipment can be grouped together by type, floor, department and delivery date. This makes tracking the equipment, loading it in the correct order and quickly installing it in the healthcare facility much easier. 

Pre-assembling the equipment during the staging process saves time and ensures everything is put together correctly. It is more efficient to track, load and unload equipment that is assembled than it is to manage countless mismatched parts and attempt to put them together on-site where space is often limited. Healthcare equipment needs to be assembled exactly as intended. The pre-assembly is especially important for smaller facilities that don’t have the in-house staff with the necessary skills or tools to assemble the items once they are delivered. 

Unless a distributor is consolidating the delivery process, facilities must often receive multiple deliveries from different manufacturers. Small healthcare offices likely do not have a receiving department with loading docks, pallet jacks, forklifts and other necessary equipment, so special arrangements may need to be made to rent or borrow the equipment.

Facilities also need to consider if additional staff is needed to help unload and carry the equipment to its final destination. You don’t want to resort to asking the anesthesiologist on his lunch break if he can help unload an exam table. Having designated employees to accept the delivery, sign for equipment and coordinate the process makes it much simpler. If equipment is damaged, this needs to be reported and documented so the products can be replaced and the appropriate insurance claims filed.

Another issue facility managers often overlook is where to store the equipment once it is delivered. Not everything can be installed immediately, so you must know how much space you will need based on what is, and is not, being placed in storage. Most facilities do not have the excess space or security to store equipment prior to installation.

Other overlooked issues are the safety checks and asset-tagging that are required when new equipment is brought into a facility. Some equipment distributors have additional biomedical resources available to help with these time-sensitive tasks.

This collaborative team effort can bring multiple successful outcomes to the entire project, including opening the facility on time with the equipment operable, and staying under budget. These facts are even more important as we struggle through the COVID-19 pandemic.

Cindy Juhas is the chief strategy officer of CME Corp., a national distributor of healthcare equipment. Learn more at cmecorp.com.

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