Handheld Scanners Prove Essential for Hospital Construction During Pandemic

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By Christopher Dollard, Leica Geosytems, part of Hexagon

While so many construction job sites were shut down at the beginning of the pandemic, hospital projects kept moving forward. In many cases, projects were accelerated to meet the needs of a growing patient population. As an essential job, the CDC health guidelines for hospital expansion and renovation projects needed to be enforced, especially social distancing. In the United States and Italy, the use of handheld imaging laser scanners was critical to the fast and safe completion of hospital projects during the pandemic.

Massive Expansion at the University of Arkansas Medical Center

The first project was at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS) Medical Center, based in Little Rock. UAMS hired design firm Cromwell Architects Engineers, Inc. to undertake an expansion project at the Winthrop J. Rockefeller Cancer Institute. The goal was to increase capacity for patient care, which was planned pre-pandemic but proved to be an extremely necessary expansion. The project spanned three floors and 100,000 square feet.

Typically, a project of this size would require a team of at least three people taking several weeks. They would be responsible for measuring, scanning, and then going back to the office to use the data to collaborate with colleagues and build their deliverables. Interior scanning is typically a slow process due to using a combination of tools to measure and scan. It requires staging an area, clearing the area of obstructions, using a tripod, capturing the space in parts, and then stitching the individual scans together. This can interrupt the flow and productivity of a hospital during normal times. Also, after working with the data, it’s not uncommon for one or two people on the team to return to the site a few weeks later to take additional measurements.  

With the UAMS project, Cromwell needed a more efficient way to scan the space without interrupting patient care or compromising accuracy, data or quality of the scans.

Getting All the Data In One Visit

Cromwell used a handheld imaging laser scanner, the Leica BLK2GO. Weighing under two pounds, the scanner makes it easy for one person to conduct an initial walkthrough while the scanner captures the space and objects around it. The scanner continuously created 3D digital point clouds as it scans dimensions and imagery of the areas.  

Based on the initial walkthrough, it was easier for Cromwell to plan the full scan and map out the route, including areas that were more complicated and would require additional time before arriving at the medical facility. But with a handheld scanner, one worker can simply follow the planned route with the scanner to complete the task much more quickly. 

The scanner’s technology enabled Cromwell to quickly create 3D models of the hospital space complete with accurate, complex 2D floorplans. The entire process of scanning the floors and verifying all of the interior scans was completed by a single person within three hours. Additionally, the scanner eliminates the need for tripods and static scanning locations.

According to Cromwell’s John Wehmer, “The floorplans are the most important thing for many of our clients. They can plan their spaces easily and quickly, and we can re-scan over time to show them how the spaces have changed.” John said.  

Cromwell provides invaluable services to healthcare facilities. Using handheld scanner technology allows pros like John to maintain social distancing while working, and to get in and out quickly to get the job done right the first time. The firm’s rapid production of floorplans helped UAMS speed up their construction to increase patient care capacity.

Renovating a 40 Building Hospital Complex

The use of a handheld scanner was also critical to a hospital renovation that took place in Bologna, Italy, in mid 2020. The project was completed by Natisoft, which provides facility and property managers with digital, as-built documentation of facilities, architectural plans of properties, and key directories of specific equipment, objects, and machines. This documentation is often provided in complex 2D floor plans and 3D models.

Recognizing that they needed a faster way to scan, measure and document a space without compromising accuracy or interrupting the care of patients in an active hospital, the Natisoft team used a handheld imaging laser scanner. The BLK2GO was used to scan the Bosch Arcispedale Santa Maria Nuova, a Bologna, Italy-based hospital complex of 40 buildings covering approximately 400,000 square meters.

Within 10 minutes, the Natisoft team was up and running with the BLK2GO with minimal training due to its simple operation and ergonomic design, allowing them to quickly scan spaces, structures, and objects simply by walking through the space while holding the lightweight scanner. 

Using the BLK2GO, the team worked efficiently and autonomously onsite. They were able to take measurements and quickly capture everything they needed without getting in the way of doctors treating patients or requiring return trips.

According to Andrea Mongelli, president of Natisoft, “Before we had the BLK2GO, we would manually take each photo, write down the information, and then place it into the proper position in our plans. Like with manual measurements, we might miss something. With the hospital complex project, important equipment, specific locations in the respective buildings, and other features were captured with detail images using the BLK2GO’s simple point-and-shoot-detail camera.”

Due to its high accuracy, the scanner eliminates mistakes in the measuring and capturing process. The scans and data are quickly uploaded and integrated into Natisoft’s workflow to develop plans and models. 

Additionally, the scanner documents the medical facilities while capturing every dimension—even the ones that Natisoft’s clients may not need now but might in the future. In the rare event that something is missed, whether it’s a dimension or documenting the location of specific equipment, the team doesn’t need to go back into the hospital to recapture it. They just open up the point clouds captured by the BLK2GO and get the data they need. This saves time and boosts the client’s confidence in the Natisoft team.

Once scanner data is uploaded to Natisoft’s own data platform, Xiri, the team can create individual floor plans and add annotations to create key directories. They can also geotag the exact location of specific types of equipment including a photo, model number, and serial number. For hospital property and facility managers, the key directory helps them find objects and equipment, organize facilities, plan for any changes, and reconfigure their facilities. These plans are also used for asset surveys of the hospital buildings and to support the needs of facility management of the entire hospital complex.

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