June 27, 2019
With billions of dollars wasted annually in the healthcare industry, administrators are looking for new ways to reduce waste, improve efficiency and maximize value. One successful approach is implementing a “lean” method to the construction of healthcare facilities through big data and artificial intelligence.
The lean process can be applied to everything from healthcare procurement and supply chain through construction delivery and project activation. The most important consideration, though, is designing healthcare facilities that can be easily adapted for capacity, delivery of care and future technology. Much of today’s waste is created when medical facilities do not anticipate the need for future conversion.
Big data opens doors for detailed analysis on space utilization. Evaluating data, such as patient volume and traffic patterns, enables hospital systems to make informed decisions on the number of beds and types of rooms needed, as well as myriad other factors. For example, big data can be used to study the lighting in healthcare facilities to help reduce energy consumption. Improving sustainability has an immediate impact on the bottom line.
The growth of the information we can cull from big data has led to increased use of prefabricated modules in healthcare facilities. Construction companies can analyze data on the project timeline and cost to enable hospital systems to make better decisions on how to build new facilities. They design a single module that can serve any use – rehabilitation, tertiary care, level 1 trauma, or a suburban micro-hospital. Prefabricated modules can considerably increase the speed to market for a new project. In addition, they also typically reduce cost for large healthcare facilities.
Similarly, artificial intelligence can directly improve how healthcare facilities address materials management, inventory and procurement. It will impact the entire supply chain from the loading dock to staging areas to how medical supplies are stored and delivered. Artificial intelligence could potentially project inventory levels in real-time to direct procurement decisions. By ensuring healthcare facilities have the right amount of supplies, the hospital system can reduce waste and lower costs. This could impact the overall design of the building by reducing the amount of space needed for storage.
While those technologies are still in their infancy, robotics are already impacting the design and function of healthcare facilities. Developers have recognized the need for robotics in back-of-house space by designing robot-ready corridors. Hospital administrators are considering how incorporating robotics into more public spaces will affect layout, functionality and customer interaction. For example, some hospital systems are already using robots for bedside monitoring and delivering supplies. And some construction companies are using robotics to build walls faster and more efficiently. This cuts 20% to 30% from healthcare construction schedules and eliminates quality inconsistencies and assembly errors.
Although healthcare construction is complex, big data and artificial intelligence have plenty of runway to continue reducing waste and improving efficiency. The growth of these technologies will only further efforts to ensure medical facilities are designed and developed to deliver high-quality healthcare.
Lisa Feeley specializes in project and construction management for healthcare facilities nationwide.
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