With the extensive backlog of patients requiring treatment after delays created by the global pandemic, combined with the normal throughput of patients requiring care, healthcare provider organizations are facing unprecedented circumstances where maximizing their assets and ensuring they are optimizing output from their sites is of critical importance for protecting profitability.
One way for healthcare provider organizations to ensure they are maximizing their facilities is to use space management planning to understand the space they have available and how they are using it. Having a detailed understanding of how space is being managed potentially can avoid underutilized space that could hinder the ability to deliver services for higher numbers of patients – without the need to invest in expanding facilities.
But many healthcare provider organizations are relying on disparate and sometimes out-of-date space management data for their facilities management planning. Carolina Nascimento, director of digital solutions at digital transformation company Enstoa, spoke with Healthcare IT News to discuss how digital transformation can help ensure healthcare provider organizations are maximizing the value they get from their current facilities.
Q. What are the biggest challenges healthcare provider organizations face when it comes to facilities management, optimizing space and preventing facilities from being underutilized?
A. Space is a big deal for healthcare providers. Space is opportunity, space supports quality service delivery, and space is a revenue driver. For space management planning, one of the biggest issues healthcare providers face is in gathering and interpreting the data they have available to them at any given time in order to get a clear and accurate picture of the entire facility and how it is being utilized.
With several different teams operating in different ways and across different systems, sourcing and gathering data and then integrating it to form one, the current version of the truth can seem an insurmountable challenge.
Different departments have their own methods of managing data to suit their specific departmental needs. For example, the real estate team likely is using the original site plan maps, whereas the clinical teams will use operational plans to establish who is using a particular treatment room or clinic at any given time.
As a result, there often is a disconnect between how different departments gather and use information.
Q. What impact has this had on healthcare provider organizations and their budgets?
A. Let us consider the example of a healthcare provider that has been approached to consider increasing their ambulatory care facility due to increased patient demand.
In order to properly understand what is required from a facilities perspective, the healthcare provider needs to speak to the leader of the real estate department, the lead clinician, finance, the head of facilities management and then, the capital projects team to gather all the related data.
But the data they each have are sourced in different ways, in different formats, and could be based on differing space planning tools and plans.
For example, when referring to a particular area, the clinical team may categorize an available space by referring to the room number on the door, whereas the facilities and capital projects departments will use the number from the original floor plans in order to refer to a particular space.
This then creates a situation where, even for something as simple as identifying a single room to analyze data from several systems, the facilities manager needs to reconcile data across several different sources to ensure they are analyzing the right space before they’ve even begun to look at the data for how that space is being used.
As a result of this process, oftentimes by the time they come to an understanding of the situation, the time invested in gathering and reconciling the data means the actual scenario on the ground has changed, and so the resource and the expense invested in planning is not producing the results needed to inform critical decision-making for facilities management planning.
Q. How can digital transformation and digital technology help overcome these challenges?
A. Effective digital transformation streamlines how facilities management data is recorded, shared and managed. It creates an environment where healthcare executives have one place, one system and one single source of truth where they can easily access the information they need to enable informed decision-making.
New technologies have the capability to scan real spaces using a mobile scanner, capturing the real dimensions and visual states of all spaces, and integrating this with existing systems and databases. This provides accurate information based not only on plans and blueprints, but what is actually on the ground in the facility today, bringing everything together to ensure those making the decisions on investing in service provision have the information they need to inform operational planning.
We’ve seen how having access to accurate space data through reality capture is an efficiency driver that plays a key part in helping healthcare providers create more accurate budgets. We’ve also seen digital transformation aid executives’ decision-making ability due to their having access to more accurate and up-to-date data.
Therefore, projects are more effective and have far better return on investment not only in terms of budget but also resources and manpower.
Q. What benefits can space management optimization underpinned by effective digital transformation bring to the healthcare sector?
A. Without accurate and reliable data, space management optimization is an unwieldy and laborious process.
It undoubtedly delivers multiple benefits for healthcare providers beyond efficiencies in resource and budget planning, but it must be acknowledged that this can be a significant undertaking for healthcare providers, involving investing in new tools and technologies that bring about changes to operational practices and ways of working, as well as trying to bring together swaths of data in a meaningful and effective way.
With significant capital and investment in resources, it is essential that employing digital tools for space management planning is done in a way that creates opportunities for healthcare providers, not further headaches and cost.
This is particularly pertinent at a time when they already are facing a post-pandemic environment. This can be achieved through ensuring the transformation process is carefully planned and managed and rolled out in a way that embraces the organization’s needs and objectives rather than being imposed upon them.
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