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HOK’s Tool for Assessing the Feasibility of Universal Patient Rooms

COVID-19 has exposed the shortage of critical care space in our hospitals and the dangers involved with running out of ICU beds.

As our population ages, the acuity of patients is getting higher. They will need more care.

The challenge is that most hospitals separate acute and critical care rooms. Ideally, there would be many more universal patient care rooms that can flex between the two as needed.

This idea isn’t new. For years, many of us have read articles, watched presentations and participated in client discussions about the need to build universal care rooms. The ability to provide the entire continuum of care in one room—from general medical and surgical procedures all the way through to intensive care and recovery—offers many benefits for patients and their care teams.

Then why haven’t more healthcare providers been able to do it?

So Many Questions

First, it’s expensive to retrofit existing acute or critical care patient rooms to be universal. The best time for healthcare organizations to plan for them is when they’re developing new buildings. Even then, assessing whether it makes sense to build universal rooms can be incredibly complex.

It seems easy enough. Instead of building 75 acute care rooms and 50 critical care rooms, for example, why not just go with 125 universal rooms that can flex to any level of care? While that passes the common-sense test, it’s far more complicated. Knowing how or where to start the conversation can be daunting.

Questions that we ask hospital clients include:

  • How does the organization define universality?
  • Which elements need to be included in a universal care room?
  • What are the potential benefits for patients?
  • What are the extra upfront costs? What is the potential return on investment?
  • What is the impact on staffing and operations? Technology and equipment?
  • Will the design meet the latest Facility Guidelines Institute (FGI) guidelines specific to individual state requirements?
  • What do the architects, engineers and other consultants need to coordinate?
  • Who will manage the process?

There are dozens more high-level questions to explore. After that, we still need to work with our clients to begin analyzing their detailed requirements.

Universal Room Planning Tool

To help our clients and design teams make these decisions, HOK’s Healthcare Consulting group has collaborated with the firm’s most experienced medical planners to develop a robust new planning tool.

Our comprehensive Universal Room Planning Tool helps healthcare organizations examine all the relevant quantitative and qualitative data required to guide them in their decision-making process.

The tool incorporates high level strategic questions and decision points, evidence-based design principles, specific guidelines and estimated costs. It ultimately acts like a decision tree that enables organizations to understand what makes sense for them and their care delivery model—now and in the future.

The biggest surprise for our clients often is that new universal patient rooms don’t have to cost significantly more. Our tool captures itemized details about expenses that reveal why it could be cost effective.

HOK’s Healthcare Consulting group helps clients create sustainable health systems that simultaneously leverage their core strengths while strategically positioning themselves to remain financially viable and fulfill their missions over time.

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