Magazine article Health Facilities Management

Unifying Design: Mergers and Acquisitions Bring New Challenges for Interior Spaces

Magazine article Health Facilities Management

Unifying Design: Mergers and Acquisitions Bring New Challenges for Interior Spaces

Article excerpt

Health care facilities have undergone numerous physical changes over the past several years as the creation of specialized units within the hospital's walls have given way to ambulatory clinics to solidify surgical, birthing, rehabilitation, wound care, radiology, emergency department and diagnostic functions.

Concurrent with these physical modifications have been shifts in ownership alignments as mergers and acquisitions of entities ranging from systems to physician practices have played a larger role in the profiles of the modern health care organization.

A wider variety of facilities representing disparate previous owners presents a fundamental shift for health care interior designers attempting to work within health care organizations' purchasing structures to achieve a unified appearance.

Organizational challenges

Health care interior designers have grown comfortable with their understanding of medical design over the years, standardizing organizations on maintenance-conscious selections for flooring, walls and touchable surfaces. But, with the growth of mergers and acquisitions, interior designers now must examine economies of scale.

With mergers and acquisitions of health care systems, the design now encompasses norms required by several partners or owners. It is not possible to passively design interiors based solely on knowledge of general materials. It is now required practice for designers to be cognizant of systemwide buying power and contractual agreements among all entities within an organization.

Interior designers must slice through the maze of options with ease. They must pinpoint the most desirable products based on the certainty of actual costs and established relationships among health care systems and suppliers.

Part of the programming process includes being well-informed regarding a health care organization's process for new construction projects as well as renovations. The professional designer initially asks who the "client liaison" is and who gives design approvals and directions.

The difficulty lies in keeping an eye on the real user of the space--people.

The late Steve Jobs said, "Design is not just what it looks like and feels like. Design is how it works." Losing sight of what the real purpose of the space ultimately means to a patient loses the intent of the space altogether. The trickle-down effect of layers of who owns what in the organization may confuse the process, but the design must be effective. The task is more complex than it was 10 years ago, but the end result still must meet the needs of both the health care provider and the patient.

After a merger or acquisition, redundancies need to be identified to streamline workflows. Many health care organizations are advanced at Lean processes and the design world needs to catch up. There is an expectation that the process of interior design follows the Lean process. The Lean process is based on focusing on the customer, figuring out how the work gets done, removing inefficiencies, tracking numbers and managing evidence, and empowering people, all in a systematic way.

There are myriad other opportunities for the designer to be an expert. When there is national acquisition, health care facilities need to be tailored to the geographic areas they serve. Materials indigenous to the locations of the health care structures are important.

The culture of the organization may change with a merger or acquisition, but cultures change more slowly. In the meantime, interior designers need to be sensitive to the past, present and future of the organization and allow flexibility in the design for the natural development of merging cultures.

Those who recognize the value of the current business of health care are much further advanced in the design of effective projects. Interior designers who adapt to the current model of consolidation will be able to strategically align with organizations. …

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