The Southern California Development Forum (SCDF), an organization that provides networking opportunities for those in the real estate community, hosted a panel discussion on September 14, 2021, about future post-pandemic strategies and how design and construction are changing in healthcare.
Alicia Wachtel, executive director, facilities planning, design and construction at Cedars-Sinai, a nonprofit and multispecialty academic health science center located in Los Angeles, California, served as the moderator for panelists from Kaiser Permanente and Providence.
Partnerships are Paving the Way for Healthcare Capital Strategies
“It’s very valuable to have various contacts in the industry guiding us in forming strategies and implementing them in the early stages of development,” said Suzanne Schwab, land use and planning director, real estate strategy and director of operations for Providence.
Providence and Kaiser Permanente have joined forces to expand their reach of care and encourage the ongoing development of healthcare in Southern California; the goal is to create a robust health platform by leveraging the strengths of each institution.
“The partnership we have with Providence is one that addresses urgent community needs,” said Joseph Stasney, national director hospital center of excellence – program delivery for Kaiser Permanente. “The high desert is underserved. As we both face similar challenges, it made absolute sense for the two organizations to partner together.”
The Future of the Healthcare Built Environment
“Healthcare systems have had pandemic plans in place for many years but have had to course-correct,” said Wachtel. “Part of the course correction is closely monitoring the market changes that can affect capital strategies for large developments.”
Cedar-Sinai had plans to start construction on a larger replacement hospital in Marina del Rey, but with an uncertain market, have postponed the expansion project.
“On the outpatient side, we paused a considerable number of our medical office building developments for Kaiser Permanente,” said Stasney. “As everyone, we did a lot of rethinking on outpatient care as we experienced a large volume increase in video visits.”
Transform model of care is what Cedar-Sinai calls their outpatient clinics’ collaborative spaces. When the pandemic started, they stopped utilizing those spaces and had to make substantial adjustments in how they see and move patients through the system.
“We developed virtual waiting,” said Wachtel. “We would have patients waiting in their cars and when it was their turn, take them to their room immediately.”
These changes have brought forth conversations on eliminating collaborative spaces and common areas and utilizing video visits exclusively for outpatient care.
Utilizing Unused Space for Workforce Housing
Schwab stated Providence is working on a new initiative with their real estate department on tackling workforce housing. Instead of a sign-on bonus, you might get a special rate on an apartment subsidized through Providence. The institution is working with the development community on how they can develop vacant spaces for Providence employees.
“Home and Community Care, an extension of Providence, provides supportive housing and one thing we’ve seen come out of the pandemic is a dire need for workforce housing,” said Schwab. “Caregivers cannot afford their rents and that has been exacerbated by the pandemic over the last 18 months.”
Construction Delays and Design Changes in Healthcare
With supply, material and cost chains fluctuating, it has been difficult to acquire materials for capital projects.
“You can lock in a price for a material and the supplier will honor your $10.00 offer for a widget, but someone else will offer $15.00 and move ahead of you in the sequence,” said Stasney. “Rearranging to address the challenges that are constantly changing is like a game of chess. We make one move, the suppliers make another move, the market changes, and you have to think outside of the box on how to deal with the challenges you have in front of you.”
Many discussions have taken place concerning design in healthcare spaces to be better equipped for the pandemic. Cedar-Sinai did a study on how they plan and design future buildings to analyze and identify strategies for improvement.
“I think an important point here is we want to be able to serve all patients,” said Wachtel. “So how do we take care of highly contagious patients without compromising our other patients.”
Kaiser Permanente has introduced a national design standards council to review the dialogue between clinicians and facility workers to try and put forth an official guideline. Stasney says it is an active dialogue that will continue to be evaluated.
In summary, collaborative relationships between organizations and employees have played a fundamental role in advancing healthcare platforms and capital strategies during a global pandemic.
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