Part 2: Significant Technology Changes Require Health Care Facility Renovations
Significant Technology Changes Require Health Care Facility Renovations
By Scott Rawlings - September 2012 - Health Care Facilities
Facilities are almost never fully equipped to handle significant technology change without some measure of renovation to their infrastructure. Depending on the technology being purchased, existing space requirements may demand architectural or structural changes to the space. While it is true that technology advances usually result in smaller space requirements, this refers to the equipment itself. If the goal is to accommodate more patients and a higher level of production, then the supporting space associated with the equipment must be expanded or the resulting bottleneck will negate any efficiency gains the equipment might have afforded. In almost all cases, some measure of "new space" or some level of internal renovation will be needed to support new technology.
More common than architectural or structural changes, but just as expensive and disruptive, are the facility system upgrades that may be required. Mechanical systems, electrical capacities and medical air distribution are all common construction items. Depending on the overall capacity of the facility's systems, construction "back to the source" can be costly, time consuming and disruptive. In some cases in older structures, limited floor-to-floor heights and out-of-code infrastructure can render the simplest upgrade either physically or financially impossible.
Technology Adoption In Existing Facilities
When considering these types of projects, a facility should first consider the target space itself and determine ahead of time what the implications will be. Older facilities would benefit from first examining their near and far future master plan. If this is a simple upgrade, or an isolated need, the project can be evaluated individually, but if this project is one of many on the near horizon, the facility may want to consider a redistribution of internal space, moving soft functions into the oldest, tightest areas, in order to open up large blocks of flexible space for technology improvement. First costs will be higher, but this approach may be less expensive in the long run.
If land permits, the pre-design study should also consider physical additions. Depending on the condition of the existing facility, its current infrastructure (mechanical and information systems), and its ability to redistribute space, new construction may be more affordable than renovation. Many times the engineering and data systems alone will cost more to upgrade than to install new branches of service. This approach, while attractive due to less disruption and lower total investment, should come with just as diligent a pre-design study as a proposed internal renovation. Placing a new structure on a tight campus with limited future possibility for expansion can severely limit long-range expansion plans.