"Just prior to the economic downturn, healthcare organizations, anticipating rules that would reward and even penalize those institutions that weren't operating efficiently and at the highest standards of care, were focusing on projects that would get their facilities into a more efficient system based on new healthcare delivery needs," Fincher says.
When capital quickly evaporated during the recession, most healthcare organizations chose to put their new construction and renovations on hold. And while hospitals may yet find it hard to afford these projects, no longer can they afford to wait. "In addition to federal regulations designed to impact reimbursements such as with hospital-acquired infections or injuries, healthcare reform will mandate that providers become more efficient."
With an additional 20 million to 40 million lives entering the system, it will not only be incumbent on hospitals to add more beds, but also to focus on getting patients through the system more quickly, without sacrificing quality.
It's in this manner that the physical structure of the hospital is becoming ever-more critical, according to Fincher. "Can patients and clinicians move efficiently through the building? Does the design accurately reflect the services you provide?" he asks.