Catering to Patient’s Needs: New Strategies to Prioritize Capital Spend

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By Alena Sakalouski Johnson, AIA, ACHA

Health systems need a new way to address industry disruption. What’s worked in the past will no longer cut it. Many health systems are feeling the pain. They’re struggling to adjust to patients’ changing needs and navigating uncontrollable industry forces that are placing demands on capital and strains on infrastructure. All too often, capital spend is dictated by the staff member who gets the most attention for their department or the loudest voice in the room. Let’s be real; this is not a strategy for long-term success. 

Prioritization of capital spending shouldn’t be a struggle; there’s a better way. Most health systems align decision making around one focus – taking care of the patient. When the patient is at the heart of all decisions, they become the driving force guiding the vision. But how do health systems stay focused on the patient-centric vision amongst all the noise and competing priorities? Below are three new strategies to consider:

Eliminate the “that’s not my job” mentality

Traditionally, every profession within the healthcare industry has a swim lane. Throw this thinking out, and demand more from internal and external teams. Every professional working in healthcare – whether a physician, architect, surgeon, contractor, developer, procurement manager, etc. – has a concurrent responsibility to honor the commitment of taking care of the patient. This responsibility includes breaking out of respective silos and seeing the bigger picture. It’s everyone’s job to command a holistic understanding of the industry, the demands and the fundamental issues that need to be solved. The challenges faced by health systems are complex, and no one individual holds the knowledge or ability to navigate these complexities. It takes a team that shares the same vantage point and uses their expertise to uncover critical insights and determine the best path forward.   

This level of cross-pollination between different expertise and service providers is proving to be effective. It will become the norm as health systems realize the benefits of increased collaboration. 

Trust is everything

Most health systems are appropriately selective about who should be on the planning team, but they need to reevaluate their criteria. At the heart of an effective team is a deep level of trust, collaboration, and respect. These three characteristics are essential as health systems strip-down business practices and challenge how they allocate resources. Every health system has at least one initiative or program with a less than stellar ROI that needs to be addressed – and these conversations are often unpleasant. Trust in these challenging situations is critical.  No challenge is insurmountable with the right team. The planning team needs to be a robust group of professionals. Look for: 

  • Passion and commitment to the patient experience over individual goals/needs 
  • The ability to be appropriately skeptical yet capable of building trust 
  • Capacity to respect others despite tension during challenging times  
  • Openness to new ideas, concepts, business models and processes 
  • A holistic understanding of the industry, the needs and the fundamental issues 

Disrupt your process 

There are two parameters that serve as guardrails to maintain alignment and drive progress in the planning process – budget and schedule. Gaining clarity and being realistic about these elements from the start sparks dialogue, enhances efficiencies, and provides insights on how to maximize a health system’s revenue stream and capital investments. After budgets and schedules are established, it’s important to map how the money flows and deepen the understanding of how all service lines work together – the bigger picture. 

As health systems plan, they need to think beyond brick and mortar (e.g., Is telehealth the best way to enhance patient’s access to care?) Take a page out of other industries’ playbooks (think retail) and look into new, creative partnerships, services, or business models (e.g., home visits, creative financing to free up capital, and satellite locations). Also, consider new processes for project delivery. There are successful new methodologies for integrating teams and breaking down silos with the intent of giving health systems more control and to better respond to evolving patient demands. 

Health systems need to be pioneers and take calculated risks to overcome challenges. Success is a collaborative effort with all parties sharing perspectives and information and seeking common ground. Integration on all fronts is the future of healthcare. Those who embrace change will reap the rewards. It’s time to do things differently.

Alena Sakalouski Johnson, AIA, ACHA is a board-certified healthcare architect at Ryan A+E, working within a multi-disciplinary team to address the changing healthcare landscape.

In any care environment, there’s a technical and almost silent dance that happens among staff. Alena’s goal is to make sure nothing disrupts the dance, giving practitioners the perfect stage to fulfill their purpose.

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