Healthcare Strategies Leading the Twenties- A Shift in Capital Priorities

07/05/2022 8:39 AM | Cinnamon Thompson (Administrator)

The Southern California Development Forum (SCDF) hosted a panel discussion on healthcare strategies and shifts in capital priorities on Tuesday, June 21, 2022. Moderated by Sean Collins, Executive Director of Facilities, Planning, Design, and Construction (FPD&C) at Cedars Sinai, the discussion panelists included Eric Brown, Director of Construction for Sharp HealthCare; Sophia Lee, Associate Administrator for Keck Medicine of USC; Randy Leopold, Sr. Director of Healthcare Architecture for UC San Diego; Alicia Ramos, Senior Project Manager for Los Angeles County Public Works; and Stephen Scott, Director of Capital Projects and Facility Operations for the Los Angeles County Department of Health Services (DHS). 

SCDF is an association of professionals in the real estate industry, founded to provide professionals with a venue to network with other colleagues across the Southern California region. 

Pressing Issues in Healthcare Development  

As healthcare leaders navigate an ever-changing economy, growing population and shifting healthcare needs, the healthcare delivery systems are also constantly evolving, which directly affects the way healthcare facilities are developed. With the upcoming seismic deadline and increasing demands in care in the communities, top healthcare institutions are not showing any signs of deceleration in their capital projects. 

“The demand for appropriate bed space is a critical issue we are facing right now,” said Alicia Ramos. “We’re navigating how to address these conditions, but also maintain cost-effective strategies.” 

Panelists also cited factors such as rising construction costs as an obstacle in developing adequate healthcare centers that address current needs while also accounting for futureproofing. “We have to be strategic in our future planning,” said Leopold. “Will this facility be in line with the needs of healthcare in ten years?” 

When it comes to forecasting and managing projects, “We are adding contingency into our schedules to account for labor, materials, and plan check delays,” said Stephen Scott.  

Environmental Impacts and Sustainability Efforts in Healthcare 

Health outcomes and the environment are inextricably linked. Environmental factors such as wildfires, smog and smoke –all of which are common occurrences in California--dramatically contribute to negative health outcomes, such as heat-related deaths and respiratory complications. 

“There are three big things that I think are relative to construction and essential to healthcare construction,” said Ramos. “First, we must quantify spending when it comes to sustainability and environmental responses. Secondly, we must prioritize the need for a larger energy supply for central plants because energy sources are a huge component in development and an essential part of how we’re planning facilities and our approach to healthcare. Lastly, we must plan for the long-term and holistically: we have to assess needs not only from a patient standpoint but from a workforce standpoint as well. How do we take care of our own workforce and continue attracting the future workforce while maintaining a healthy environment?” Sustainability is top of mind for Keck Medicine of USC. “We will soon require all ground up construction to be LEED Platinum,” said Sophia Lee.  

The Labor Market and Workplace Strategies 

Labor shortages are forcing healthcare institutions to prioritize staff retention and staffing models. Meanwhile, unprecedented growth and faculty recruits are pushing healthcare institutions to be creative with space and maximize existing assets.  

Additionally, healthcare workers endure significantly more stress than they did five years ago, creating additional challenges for healthcare companies to retain a full workforce in a post-COVID world. “It’s a challenge a lot of people just aren’t willing to endure,” Brown said, also citing the shift to remote work as a challenge in maintaining a fully-staffed workforce. Sophia Lee, on the other hand, noted that the shift towards hybrid work and the hoteling model has benefitted her organization by freeing up onsite space for other critical functions. 

In summary, it is a very difficult climate to navigate, but healthcare leaders are working tirelessly to deliver care in a cost-effective way while meeting the needs of today and tomorrow’s society. Whether or not this current “crazy” becomes the new norm, we all need to remain nimble and smart about the way we operate our facilities, now more than ever.  

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