PDC 2012 Review: Efficiency Will Rule

Posted on March 12, 2012


The annual ASHE Planning, Design and Construction (PDC) Summit is one of the largest yearly gatherings for those interested in what is affecting the intersection of healthcare delivery and design and construction. As blogged about in the past, each year I seem to recognize an unofficial theme that, although unstated and uncoordinated, permeates the discussions and seminar content. In 2008, it was ‘green’; 2009, ‘BIM’, and two years ago, it felt like ‘lean’. Last year, I have to say it was ‘more with less’. This year’s ‘efficiency’ is an amplification of last year’s message, which was really built off the ‘lean’ concept of two years ago.

Efficiency for a hospital means providing the best care with the best use of equipment, staff and time. As practical as this seems, it is not so easily done because hospitals and their inner workings are complex machines, always in motion. I heard CEOs talked Lean operations and six sigma initiatives. Researchers presented on process engineering and simulation. Moderators asked about quality care and lowering readmissions. Designers presented on staff travel distances and evidence-based design practices.  Facilities directors spoke about electronic medical records and tracking equipment. And all of it reinforces the way a hospital does business.

Efficiency is no stranger to healthcare improvement; after all, it is one of the World Health Organization’s six key metrics for quality care.  Yet, is not a given because for decades it has been too easy for hospitals to survive without being efficient. Now it isn’t. Readmissions are verboten. Projects cannot simply add more square footage without making sure they add the right amount in the right spot because finding another doctor or nurse to hire can be nigh on impossible.

Architects, engineers and contractors will need to find ways to help hospitals plan, design and build more efficiently. Many of us already are. Those who think efficiency is a fad will probably keep that mindset for another few years. In fact, those are likely the same crowd still on the fence about sustainability, but that is here to stay my friend. What was once optional is now a necessity.

Posted in: Design Zeitgeist