Saturday, April 26, 2008

Utilizing your medical equipment planner

Are you working with a medical equipment planner on your project? If so, they can be a valuable resource early in the design process. Too often the equipment planners are relied upon to furnish an equipment report and cutsheets in DD's or CD's, but little in the earlier SD phase.

If you are a "form follows function" person like me, it makes sense to understand what impact the medical equipment may have on the rooms before designing them. The medical equipment technology evolves very rapidly, so your equipment planner may offer insights to help you design a better work flow for both rooms and departments.

When working on projects in the early 1990's the shift from "wet" processing to "dry" processing of x-ray film had a huge impact on facility design. One project in particular had designed a centralized silver recovery system. The architect and engineers had all of the used developer and fixer from 8 darkrooms draining into a centralized holding tank for silver recovery and disposal. It was something that would have served their existing facility very well. However, this system was going to have no benefit to the new facility within a year or two after opening.

The cost of the waste distribution system was to be paid for by the anticipated economies of scale and recouped cost from silver recovery. Unfortunately, these economies were simply never going to be reached. The dry processing technology was well on its way to making both darkrooms and silver-based processing chemicals obsolete. While the project would open its doors with traditional wet processing, these systems were to be replaced very soon afterward.

The centralized system was value-engineered out of the design during CD"s, but a discussion with the equipment planner a few month earlier would have saved thousands of dollars in design fees.

What new trends and technologies might influence your next project?

Patients are getting larger. Bariatric beds require larger door widths, allowing them to be moved in and out of patient rooms. The rising use of ceiling mounted patient lifts is reducing back injuries to staff, but also requires structural support to accommodate both the lift unit and the patient. The heavier the patient, the greater the structural support required. Will your ceilings support 700 pounds? Does it make sense to designate rooms as "future" bariatric rooms and install the structural support in the ceilings now?

PACs is getting more prevalent. Fewer hard copy films mean less need for film archives space. PACs viewers are replacing x-ray view boxes. Requirements for shelving units, carts, and racks to accommodate 11X17 film are greatly reduced in most facilities. Don't just emulate existing space and designs for x-ray film. Develop an understanding of how the facility will digitize hard copy films that are pulled from archives or that accompany a referred patient. The design of customized casework to accommodate these over-sized x-ray film jackets is a waste of time and money in todays environment.

How might your project be affected by the next leap in technology? Ask your medical equipment planning consultant for a list of medical trends and their potential impact on each department. It's a great exercise for educating your project design team and will also help to engage your equipment planner earlier in the project.

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