For decades, health systems and hospitals have been working to improve patient care outcomes and patient experience through the use of digital technologies, including electronic health record (EHR) systems and virtual health capabilities. The pandemic kicked many of these digitalization technology projects into overdrive.
Real estate comprises the second largest cost at most healthcare organizations. Yet, when it comes to tracking and reporting key healthcare real estate, facilities, space and assets data, this process is still largely dependent on either error-prone and time-consuming manual entries or stored on legacy on-premise systems. Challenged by limited staff and resources and evolving compliance requirements, healthcare organizations are taking a serious look at how to use digital workplace management solutions to reshape real estate footprints and optimize building utilization.
Recently, FM:Systems hosted a panel discussion about how to improve patient care and achieve operational efficiency by automating key healthcare facility and real estate data. Panelists included:
- David Stephenson, Director of Smart Building Studio for LITTLE Diversified Architectural Consulting
- Ben Medina, Application Specialist for LITTLE
- Sean Zinn, Healthcare Industry Expert at FM:Systems
In this article, we’ll cover some of the highlights from their informative conversation. But you can go deeper by watching the entire on-demand webcast.
The rapidly-changing nature of the healthcare industry
PwC reports that in 2021, healthcare industry mergers and acquisitions deals increased by 32% in volume and by 65% in value. This has implications for healthcare real estate management. The very high level of M&A activity in the industry, combined with healthcare organizations’ continuing response to the pandemic environment, is driving a need for both new facilities and reworked spaces.
Space planners need access to better real estate data to drive portfolio optimization. Many healthcare organizations have found their data lacking in standardization, timeliness and organization.
Diagnosis? It’s time for better technology. Fortunately, integrated digital workplace management solutions can help health systems make data-driven decisions with confidence—not opinions.
Standardizing healthcare facilities data helps with compliance
Healthcare is a highly regulated industry. Technology can help facilities managers comply with regulations and requirements from regulatory agencies such as The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) and accreditation bodies such as The Joint Commission. Medicare and/or Medicaid certified providers must demonstrate facilities compliance with National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) Life Safety Code (LSC) and Health Care Facilities Code (HCFC).
To ensure continued compliance, space planners must be able to define spaces and determine how they are being used and provide it during compliance audits. Facilities managers must also be able to demonstrate preventative maintenance of medical equipment for compliance purposes.
Recently, facility managers and space managers have been inundated with new building and floor plans as health care providers acquire new businesses and build new facilities. To manage rapid change, it’s important for healthcare organizations to create a system to standardize new plans and digitize them into space management solutions. Standardization should include defining floor plan standards, polylining standards for AutoCAD, and life safety building features. Standardized data helps facilities managers ease floor plan ingestion and helps space planners easily interpret and analyze data across multiple facilities.
Standardized KPIs improve visibility across real estate portfolios
When the data isn’t standardized in a system, space planners in large healthcare organizations spend too much time trying to locate documentation to aid decision-making. Having all facilities space accurately captured and properly catalogued within an integrated digital workplace management solution is extremely important for full visibility of the portfolio.
“You can ask three people about the square footage of a building, and you can literally get three different answers, depending on whether they reference gross, rentable or useable square feet. Having a system that standardizes square feet across a real estate portfolio enables more accurate reporting of Key Performance Indicators (KPIs).”
-Ben Medina, LITTLE
Whatever standards (for example square footage method) an organization employs for one KPI should be applied consistently throughout the portfolio. In this way, space planners gain full visibility across the portfolio and meaningful data insights can be derived and compares between facilities.
Workplace management technology for the administrative side of healthcare
As we begin to reach the endemic phase of the pandemic, healthcare organizations have been shifting toward purchasing and implementing technology that allows people to return to the office safely. There’s been a shift back to traditional space planning as organizations are looking for digital solutions and processes to move people around and redefine spaces.
In order to optimize administrative and nonclinical spaces, healthcare organizations are migrating from centralized scheduling and booking solutions to decentralized, full-service room and desk booking solutions. Where in the past only administrative super users had in-depth knowledge about how to reserve space in the facilities, now organizations are looking to put that power in the hands of employees for a more convenient experience and efficient solution.
“The biggest thing we’re seeing from an administrative side of healthcare the technology to support a hybrid working model—desk booking, mobile apps and even full-blown workplace experience apps—are highly in demand right now. We have a number of clients asking for those.”
-Ben Medina, LITTLE
As portfolios are right-sized to support a hybrid work model, one-to-one seating will morph into hybrid working models and employees will need help as the navigate the workplace. Employees will need tools to help them find their colleagues and book desks near their team on a day-to-day basis. Today, all-in-one digital workplace platforms enable employees to reserve space through a mobile application and accommodate hundreds or even thousands of users instead of a handful of administrators.
Space management technology to improve patient care and facility efficiency
Healthcare organizations also have an opportunity to use technology to identify significant cost savings opportunities. With real-world data to support true occupancy, utilization, and space planning insights, the real estate portfolio can be optimized to enhance patient experience and increase facility efficiency and revenues. During the panel discussion, David Stephenson described one practical way changes to the patient care experience can unlock potential efficiency gains for clinics and outpatient hospital services.
LITTLE works with both clinics and large hospitals. During the pandemic, the firm noticed waiting rooms usage was changing dramatically. Where once clinics kept a lot of patients in the waiting room, now they were scheduling patients on a much more narrow timeframe and trying to keep waiting rooms largely empty and socially distanced. David Stephenson described the new model of very specific appointment times as “almost like just-in-time booking, but for a health appointment rather than a conference room reservation.”
“Now, we’re talking to some clients now about being able to monitor waiting rooms within their portfolio of clinics to try to understand the maximum utilization of each clinic. Real estate is very expensive to build, so if they can reduce the size of the waiting room, add a couple exam rooms and increase throughput of the clinic, which increases revenue—that’s a win-win for them.”
-David Stephenson, LITTLE
Key Takeaways for Healthcare Organizations
All-in-one digital workplace management solutions offer healthcare streamline all key facilities data for a more reliable way for facilities directors, space managements, real estate teams, and executives to share insights and a single source of truth. This empowers healthcare organizations to identify opportunities where they can:
- Optimize underused real estate
- Harness major cost savings through efficiency and throughput improvements
- Ensure compliance with Joint Commission Regulations and Medicare Reporting requirements
- Elevate the patient experience
For more healthcare real estate insights, watch the full panel discussion, Improve Patient Care and Operational Inefficiencies at Your Healthcare Facility.