Sep 07, 2021

Getting a deeper understanding of future of healthcare facilities

Lisa Fleek
Business Development, Health & Wellness

I recently attended the ASHE conference in Nashville and walked away with a deeper understanding & appreciation of the complexity of construction in healthcare. For example, I learned hospitals consume two & a half times the energy of what the typical office building in a city does! In the end, OpenSquare’s part plays an impactful role in enhancing the patient experience/outcome and being good stewards of the environment.

I attended many sessions but a few stuck out. Following are some key takeaways, which prompted me to reflect on our business processes and how we support, engage, and challenge these invaluable resources we are given the opportunity to work with daily.

Sustainability & Decarbonization – Design & pre-design are impactful and understanding what the goals are upfront is key for best outcomes. Is healthcare willing to invest in incentives? Design teams always need to be looking at renewable resources and where they could reduce a facilities environmental footprint, looking at where they could save on resource usage including electricity, water usage, etc. If not, clients will spend more money on re-design in the future. Pushing the boundaries to reduce energy usage and the carbon impact of buildings are necessary to be more sustainable. Then there’s the impact of carbon directly on the patient – higher carbon in the air equals higher cancer rates. When hospital systems reduce the environmental impact of the building, it enhances the life of all potential patients.

Deferred Maintenance – Even with the current focus on infrastructure funding, it’s hard to know how to appropriately fund this important part of the physical environment. Panelists focused on the impact of infrastructure deferred maintenance to the physical environment. The discussion was around capital planning and developing a recommended infrastructure renewal capital plan. They kicked off with data on the state of health care infrastructure:

We must transform our thinking and work to promote the strategic importance of properly funding our facilities. They took the audience to the buckets --literal buckets -- on the stage and had a conversation around “if, then, what.” The six buckets were:

1. Unplanned Replacement

2. Break/Fix Repair

3. General Operations

4. Compliance PM & ITM


6. Planned Replacement

Facility managers need to partner with leadership – providing value leads to inclusion; earn their place at the table, not as a participant but a critical team member and enable the process of continuous improvement and communicate all options objectively. As one panelist noted, the c-suite is saying “Give me Options, Not Problems or Ultimatums.” In considering the PNW and our current clients, I believe we should be providing solutions and deliverables that support healthcare goals and that challenge the status quo.

Big Box Healthcare – Rural communities have experienced contraction of local services for over the past 30 years. Mapping this decline shows states where these challenges are most and least prevalent. Largely due to market forces and changes in health care models, this decline has negatively impacted community health outcomes and sustainable economic development throughout the Midwest. The Rural areas of the West are in the BEST position, Healthcare in these areas are following an integrated approach to building health systems that serve rural communities and are more sustainable. One clear example of this is Columbia Basin Health Association. They have done an excellent job at offering dental, eye, lab, telehealth, Covid travel, imaging and working towards being a one-stop shop for their community’s health needs. Snoqualmie Hospital is beginning down this path and have infusion, flu vaccines, affordable access program, and are adding dental. It is great to know our area is ahead of the curve, but we need to realize there are still many rural communities in Washington that need more services.

The panel discussed identifying abandoned retail properties (i.e. CHI Silverdale/Safeway renovation to clinic). They introduced a case study from the Midwest, which illustrated a unique partnership that healthcare providers are pursuing to integrate services (i.e. dental, ophthalmologist, acute care, etc…) in retail big box locations. My feeling is the PNW healthcare systems are doing some of this now, this case study brought to light a great conversation to have when working with clients in rural areas.

I came away from the conference with a renewed energy to engage in thought-provoking conversations with my clients on topics such as sustainability and impacts of deferred maintenance. I am excited that in our region we are ahead of the curve for our rural health and wellness services. But I am even more excited to implement new ways of thinking about space, and what spaces could be used to provide healthy solutions for every community.

Lisa Fleek works with health and wellness clients to create spaces that focus on the person behind the patient. You can connect with Lisa on LinkedIn