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Hospital Space Planners: Planning Hospitals of the Future

By CME on Aug 22, 2014 11:53:29 AM

medium_11108056044The hospital of the future will be significantly different from the hospitals we see today.  According to some reports, not a single administrator, doctor, or patient can clearly tell what these hospitals will look like.  According to Gary M. Burk, Principal at Terrie L Kurrasch Senior Associate Ratliff, the future hospital won’t be a healthcare facility.  Due in part to technological innovations and the general delivery system, amalgamation, consolidation, and the ever-evolving regulatory environment, future hospitals won’t be as richly utilized, nor will they be as resource intensive as the hospitals of today.

Four key features of future hospitals

  1. Efficiency - of operations, optimal functional relationships, clinical safety, value for money, low upkeep requirements, and modern systems.
  2. Sustainability – of design, reduced consumption of energy, and intensive 24-hour usage characterized by high occupancy rates.
  3. Flexibility – for expansion and acquisition of new technology.
  4. Patient centered care - where the family is considered part of the care process.
  5. Healing environment - created from hospitality and art alongside science and technology.

Hospitals may no longer be stand alone organizations; instead, they may be part of a large distributed healthcare system.  The hospitals could also be resource appropriate and how they are utilized will be proportional and relative to where they are located and the demographics of the location in general.

Planning for building systems and for low upkeep

Circulation remains critical to healthcare facilities.  Because hospitals are in general very busy, housing not only patients, but also their families as well as the care givers, the future hospital will place circulation right at the top of its most important structural features.  Apart from comfortably accommodating the aforementioned groups, hospital space planners are looking at building structures that help with, among other things, control of infections and will carefully separate and control public and private, as well as clean and unclean traffic. 

Another major challenge that will be addressed by these new constructions is the increased need to design simple structures from easily maintainable materials while ensuring durability and flexibility in case they have to be changed in unpredictable ways over the long term.  Walls and floors need to be particularly easy to clean but still durable, and the locations of doors and partitions will considerably change.  All hospitals, big and small, will feature extensive web-based and data communication systems yet even these additions must be easily obtained and easily accessible.  A couple of expected changes will include use of long-life LED lights and installation of durable, easy to maintain finishes. 

Possible types of hospital space plans

The following five space plans are examples of floor plans that we could see in the future:

  1. Inpatient care plans
  2. Ambulatory care space
  3. Diagnostic and treatment space
  4. Support area spaces
  5. Public spaces

How these spaces are related is another matter being looked at.  Whether it’s a large public hospital or a small community hospital, efficiency, the 24/7, 365 day service goal, and provision for overlapping functionality will be important considerations.  Because needs at the hospital change as you move from one room to the next, planning will be done depending on the room type, addressing the needs for equipment and relationships at the room level before integrating these needs into functional planning modules, departmental functionalities, and eventually the overall stack of the facility where functional flow, design, and architectural balance coexist.

Planning for these hospitals has been ongoing for the past 60 years and it can’t be too long now before we see the first prototypes.  In fact, the aforementioned article by Gary M. Burk indicated that Sutter Health, headquartered in Sacramento, California has embarked on a plan to implement and open prototype hospitals embodying the principles of lean design and cellular care.  They now have four prototype hospitals in design production and expect to bring them online within the next few years.

Again, the role of architects and space planners was deemed paramount to the development of these prototype hospitals.  This will be an ongoing creative challenge for hospital architects and space planners over the foreseeable future.

CME is a medical distributor focused on procuring, delivering and installing capital equipment for hospital remodeling, expansion and new construction.  With over 30-years of experience in this activity, we love working with hospital space and equipment planners. 

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Topics: Capital Equipment, hospital space planners

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