BNP Engineering News-Record Architectural Record

Bridging Cost and Care: Global Benchmarks For Healthcare Environments

Building techniques demonstrate value in improving care while reducing the total cost of healthcare delivery.

April 2011
Sponsored by Bluworld of Water, Engineered Lighting Products, Excel Dryer, Inc., Guardian Industries, SAFTI FIRST and TIMELY Industries

By C.C. Sullivan

Continuing Education

Use the following learning objectives to focus your study while reading this month’s Continuing Education article.

Learning Objectives - After reading this article, you will be able to:

  1. Discuss the economic and demographic factors influencing healthcare facility decisions.
  2. List three to four issues and solutions adopted by healthcare organizations to improve building design and project delivery.
  3. Describe building techniques and technologies specifically designed to improve patient recovery (evidence-based design) and building operations.
  4. Explain how such products as glazing, washroom accessories, lighting and others have successfully supported these techniques.

Credits: 1.00 HSW

This course was approved by the GBCI for 1 GBCI CE hour(s) for LEED Credential Maintenance.

This test is no longer available for credit

Times are relatively good for global healthcare. Life expectancy is at its highest level in history, and new treatments and lifesaving techniques arrive on the scene every day. In the United States, recent legislation-though swirling in controversy-aims to make care more available and affordable. Along with these advances, architects are working to make hospitals and other healthcare buildings a true ally in improving public health and patient treatment.

Yet economics are clouding this rosy picture. The healthcare system absorbs $2.5 trillion annually or close to 17 percent of U.S. gross domestic product (GDP). Treatment costs tend to increase rapidly, and total spending is expected to grow to 19.5 percent of GDP by 2017, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Hospitals and healthcare providers regularly report a shortfall in payments, which the American Hospital Association (AHA) calculates in the tens of billions of dollars (see Chart 1).

"American hospitals are financially challenged and the trends in revenues and expenses will put and even greater burden on the viability of many hospitals and their ability to fund capital projects," says Anne McLeod, vice president of finance policy for the Sacramento-based California Hospital Association. While the portion of patients with Medicaid has risen over the last decade from 11 percent to about 14 percent of the total economy, McLeod adds, rates of employer-sponsored insurance have dropped precipitously-from almost 64 percent in 2000 to about 8 percent just two years ago. States, now struggling to fill budget gaps, spend on average 14 percent of their budgets on Medicaid, according to the National Association of State Budget Officers.

The need for cost control by hospitals and healthcare providers is driving architects to innovate. Based on demographics alone, the growing need for new and refurbished healthcare facilities will continue its upward trend for years. Yet healthcare facility operators will see a softening of demand due to the recent economic downturn, resulting in fewer patient admissions and fewer elective procedures. Based on those numbers-and a resulting lack of capital-providers are revising their projections for construction spending (see Chart 2). About 40 percent of hospitals have halted projects to increase patient capacity or renovate facilities, although the slowdown has more dramatically affected purchases of new clinical technologies and IT systems.

At the Omaha Women's Methodist Hospital in Omaha, Nebraska, the architect HDR Architecture employed low-E glazings with low-reflectivity coatings on interior surfaces.

Photo courtesy of Guardian Industries


Originally published in the April 2011 issue of Architectural Record
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