Cutting Through the Noise

Posted on October 22, 2012


Business owners and marketing professionals especially, call general blather and inflated industry talk “noise”.  Noise is generated by uninformed media, irresponsible journalism, and hollow reports trying to predict things that cannot be predicted. Somewhere in the noise is a nugget or two of fact and useful information, but for the most part, noise distracts and confuses people trying to thoughtfully direct strategy.  Right now, healthcare suffers from too much noise.

Healthcare facility design and construction is not the only industry where there is supposed to be more activity than there currently is. Although data is trending for a slight increase in 2012 construction volume over 2011 by year-end, there is not a lot going on. ‘Not a lot going on’ has been the message for a few years now.

Architects and contractors have a right to be frustrated by noise.  We read there is pent-up facility demand in the healthcare market.  Outpatient care is growing and hospitals want to de-centralize and reach out to new populations. At the same time, hospitals are aging and many have been neglected in the recession as belts were tightened.  Therefore, routine maintenance did not happen, but needs to, including renovations and “repurposing” underutilized rooms and departments in favor of growth trends. And many hospitals are still trying to banish semi-private rooms in favor of all-private rooms. Supposedly this, too, should be fueling healthcare construction.

I don’t see it.  What gives?

We read healthcare is in a crisis amid a ‘perfect storm’ of future demand and physician and nurse shortages.  And yet, systems have appetites for growth, which requires precious staffing. We hear conflicting reports of a need for bed towers as Baby Boomers age and need more acute care; yet, we hear more care will be on an outpatient basis, and thousands of beds are likely to be ‘furloughed’ due to excess capacity.  Likewise, hospitals say they want to drive people away from their Emergency Departments; however, thousands of hospitals have proceeded to modernize and even expand their EDs. 

This cannot all be noise.

After four plus years of waiting for an economic rebound, architects, engineers and builders simply want to cut through the noise to understand what is real:  where do hospitals want to be in five, ten years, and what do they need? In an election year, there is far more noise than usual, which is regretful. 

What do you think?  In healthcare, how do you sort for the substance on which to act?