Case Study | Cost of Care

8 Tips for Long-Range Cost Savings in Healthcare Construction

Case Study | Cost of Care

8 Tips for Long-Range Cost Savings in Healthcare Construction

Understanding of budgets and involving those who will be using spaces are two ways to ensure success.

With so much change and uncertainty surrounding the healthcare industry, it’s difficult to find stability when it comes to healthcare construction projects. In addition, the rising cost of construction materials further complicates the process. With these forces working against the prospect of efficient and cost-conscious build-outs, contractors and healthcare organizations alike have to be creative to uncover cost savings.

By using a patient-centered approach, cost savings can be achieved throughout every phase of a project. This allows healthcare organizations to create ideal settings for both daily operations and excellent care. Here are eight cost-saving tips we have identified to help with the process:

Know what is in your project budget. Having a clear understanding of your construction budgets and what falls within them could have a major impact on bottom lines. A simple fact: Many projects are initially designed with no budget restraints. However, transparent budgets that inform Target-Value Design–design based on a detailed budget–are keys to financial success.  

Assess what is needed and what is “nice to have.” During planning, some features will be requested that are not absolutely necessary. It is worth having tough conversations around particularly expensive or complex features early, especially those in environments not directly related to patient care. All items that fall outside the “needed” category need to be evaluated for their ROI. 

Use visual cues to plan carefully for infection control.The importance of infection control in occupied spaces cannot be understated, especially when working near patients with compromised immune systems. Avoiding potential environmental pollution in an active healthcare setting is less about saving construction costs and more about preserving quality of life and care. One way to strengthen communication and improve compliance with infection control precautions is through more universally understood visual communication cues. 

Understand clinical implications of construction decisions. Material choices can impact everything from maintenance to infection control. Don’t skimp when patient outcomes are on the line—an investment during construction can return favorable patient satisfaction scores later. Products must be evaluated for life expectancy, ease of cleaning, and durability to public use. In addition, consider whether your selections are nearly timeless or could be dated in five years. 

Start with the end in mind. One of the most overlooked phases of the project is the period between the substantial completion of construction and the first patient visit. The fit out of the space with technology, equipment, furniture, and owner material installation can add up to 50 percent of the project duration if not planned and executed properly. These tasks and time frame should be incorporated into the construction schedule early so they are coordinated with the new design. In most cases, having your contractor oversee this phase of the project will yield an overall savings. 

Consult with the clinical users of the space about future needs. Newly constructed healthcare spaces should reflect anticipated changes to ensure spaces are relevant for as long as possible without significant renovation. Connecting with those that will use the space the most ensures that all elements of the space are relevant and useful—eliminating underutilization and inefficiencies. Spaces that provide flexibility for future space development are traditionally better investments than areas built specifically for one need. 

Install adequate barriers. For example, when rated walls between construction and non-construction areas are not required, choosing rigid, dust-free barrier systems may present greater up-front costs than traditional plastic sheeting, but requires significantly less maintenance. In addition, modular panels assemble quickly without tools and provide safe, stable enclosures that are also flame resistant. For many healthcare projects, these systems can save time and money and also ease the minds of infection-control specialists. As an added benefit, these systems demonstrate higher levels of cleanliness to patients. 

Proactively focus on common risk factors. Noise, vibration, air quality, infection control, and life safety/emergency procedures are five critical elements of healthcare construction that require extra up-front attention and consideration to manage risk and prevent emergency shutdowns or other costly situations. Collaboration among owners, design teams, contractors, safety professionals, and facility managers early in the process can properly analyze and control these risk factors. 

Ultimately, savvy project management can reduce construction costs and improve the patient satisfaction scores on which Medicaid and Medicare payments are increasingly based. Implementing these cost considerations into construction processes will, in the long run, lead to healthcare facilities that effectively serve patients, caregivers, and communities.

About the Authors

Jeff Janicek

is vice president, Skender, Chicago.

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