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Hospitals in Flux

The Dynamic Nature of Modern Healthcare Environments
Modern hospitals are undergoing major renovations unseen since the last great construction boom following WWII.
The actual dynamics of these changes have remained hidden in the face of the over $15 billion a year scope of these
changes. MKThink undertook an extensive research project using both primary and secondary data analysis to understand
the nature of these dynamics. The goal was to provide the larger health care industry with insight into the nature of these
changes. Our research and analysis revealed interesting patterns and led to design recommendations based on these

An MKThink Research Publication
28 July 2005

For further information, please contact:
Chloe Lauer at 415 288 3394
Hospitals in Flux
The Dynamic Nature of Modern Healthcare Environments

F or many, the modern hospital stands as symbol of technological THREE PRIMARY DRIVERS FOR CHANGE
mastery, order, and control in the face of the chaos that illness
brings to the social fabric. When one lifts the hood on the New technologies, increasing focus on patient/family-centered
modern hospital, however, one is struck by just how much flux spaces, and the competitive pressure for services all are forcing
and change is taking place within the halls of these central social hospitals to adjust their physical environments accordingly.
New technologies. Wireless patient record keeping and
Hospitals are experiencing a wave of construction and increasingly sophisticated imaging technologies are driving the
renovation unseen since the construction boom following WWII. need for space allocation dedicated to tech support and IT
Hospital construction activity was measured to be around $15 systems.As new technologies enter the hospital, work flows are
billion in 2003,1 driven largely by decaying and obsolete influenced. This, in turn, affects planning and space allocations.
facilities, changing patient demographics, seismic codes, and
technological advances. Patient/Family Centered Space. Patients and families are
increasingly demanding a variety of amenities to make their
With approximately 4,800 registered U.S. hospitals,2 this hospital experience more “home-like,” such as single family rooms
translates to approximately $3 million per hospital in construction and comfortable, hotel-like waiting areas.
and renovation each fiscal year. To put this into perspective, with
revenue per hospital averaging $70 million per year,3 renovation Competitive Pressures. Both the pressure to keep up with the
costs equal almost 4% of yearly hospital revenue. competition and the desire to improve efficiencies are forcing
hospitals to realign their facilities in the face of increasing fiscal
Another way to understand the impact is to look at hospital bed pressures, demographics, and patient needs.
availability. Each year the total hospital square footage offline
due to construction is equivalent to 215 entire hospitals. The These changes in hospital facilities are only expected to increase
scope and scale of these changes is extensive and continues to over time. The need for hospitals to adapt to these various drivers
grow each year. is accelerating. This need creates increasingly dynamic conditions
in the hospital built environment.
Faced with such extensive change, hospital design is moving
away from traditional “brick and mortar” construction paradigms. SCOPE AND SCALE
The move towards long-term facilities planning, modularity, and
design around a technology-enhanced workflow are all part of a The changes taking place in hospital facilities are ubiquitous
series of design trends reshaping the architecture of hospitals and and extensive. Over 2/3 of U.S. hospitals are in some state of
the larger healthcare built environment. transition. Of these, most of the hospitals under renovation are
larger—over 240,000 s.f. with 250 or more beds.

Project costs vary widely for a given fiscal year, ranging from
$110,000 to $100,000,000. Most hospitals are regularly
allocating funds to facilities upgrades and improvements as new

Hospitals in Flux © MKThink 2005. Reproduction prohibited without permission. Page 2
technologies, shifting Full Time Equivalents (FTEs), or changing construction work required.”5 The bottom line for many facilities
patient needs put pressure on the extant facilities. managers is that “patients always need the newest, latest, greatest
care. Technology has to keep up with every aspect of patient
In California in particular, State Bill SB 1533, focused on seismic care.”6
retrofitting, has led to major expansions of hospital renovation
and construction. Besides upgrading for seismic retrofitting, The number of these renovations over time illustrates the dynamic
many states are mandating changes in hospitals due to outdated nature of the hospital environment driven by technological
materials and higher standards for healthcare excellence. change. Consistent renovations and regular expenditures due to
obsolescence in technology and other factors drive these changes
TECHNOLOGY DRIVES REGULAR CHANGE in a way that make the interior environments of modern day
hospitals one of significant fluidity.
Technology is one of the primary drivers of facility change. In
particular, the increasingly prominent role of complex imaging PATIENT/FAMILY CENTERED SPACE
and diagnostic modeling technologies is demanding an increase
in infrastructure support. As these technologies become more As the hospital amenities competition heats up with increasing
sophisticated, new rooms, data cabling, and conduits must be demand from patients and families for comfort and control,
created in accord with changes to hospital space planning tied hospitals are forced to adjust their rooms to accommodate family
to new workflow patterns. In addition, workflow patterns based needs more directly. The overall thrust for many facilities managers
on the traditional “tower and pancake” model of hospital design in this regard is “making the buildings more patient friendly.
with multiple floors dedicated to different specialties often does [We are] looking for ways to facilitate expansion of community
not mesh with the increasingly interconnected and interdisciplinary services.”7
nature of technology driven healthcare.
One of the major changes in alignment with this trend is the
Because of these shifts in technology, and the obsolescence of creation of single rooms (Figure 2). The demand for single rooms
facilities, hospitals are making changes due to technology on a with accoutrements found in hotel suites is a growing concern for
regular basis (Figure 1). many facilities managers, who feel that they have to “improve the
patient and family experience”8 by creating facilities that match
FIGURE 1: Frequency Of Technology Driven Changes, the needs of the users.
2000-2005 (Per Facility)
100% FIGURE 2: Patient/Family Demand On Hospitals







0 2 5 10 10+
s s s s s es
om om ea om om ac
Ro Ro Ar o Ro Sp
Roughly 70% of respondents reported having had to make
le ily g rR h
ng tin ve Te
c in
changes over five times per year in their facilities due to outdated Si Fa
m ai yo al
W a He
facilities not meeting the needs of new technologies. New and
improved wireless services, IT services, diagnostics and imaging, COMPETITIVE PRESSURES - CHANGING SERVICES
electronic medical records, MRI facilities, and catheter labs all
require major renovation of space to accommodate new work Patient and family demand for particular services, changing
flows, or provide room functionality not available in original service offerings, and the creations of focus factories (centers
configurations. of excellence) are key factors driving the needs of facilities
A Facilities Manager at a major California Hospital in the Bay renovation.
Area commented, “We continually upgrade our CTs and MRIs
to the latest technology. There is always some renovation/

Hospitals in Flux © MKThink 2005. Reproduction prohibited without permission. Page 3
Patient demand for specialty services ranging from cardiac cath efficiently. Several implications for planning and design arise from
labs to fertility clinics are increasingly driving hospitals to make these trends:
changes in facilities to keep up with competitive demands. Like
any other industry in a consumer driven marketplace, hospitals are • The creation of core centers of excellence. These “Focus
under increasing pressure, as informed patients demand better Factories” for specialty services like cardiac or orthopedics,
accommodations and excellence in treatment. This is forcing many which draw attention to hospitals just as university departments
hospitals to become more responsive to remain competitive in an are known for their particular areas of specialization. This
increasingly consumer driven marketplace. allows a hospital to create attractive and marketable service
packages that are recognized and sought by increasingly
In addition to expanding service offerings, hospitals are also sophisticated healthcare consumers.
faced with pressures to improve operating efficiencies. The
imperatives of HMOs and other business performance criteria • Hospital planning will be increasingly focused on
are forcing hospitals to consider both the expansion of profitable adaptation. Hospitals will shift from short term, reactive
and consumer marketable services, but also the cutting and response to change to incorporating change into long term
scaling back of all forms of redundant and inefficient facilities and planning and design. Hospitals will use more thorough front
procedures. To quote one facility manager, “The goal is to figure end strategic and scenario planning as a key feature in hospital
out how to do more with less, and do it better.”9 design to plan and adapt to changes over time.

FLEXIBILITY AND CHANGE AS NORM • Design around workflow and current care models. Hospitals
increasingly will follow design models like airports where a
Future trends point to increased changes, with over 68% of core hub with all centralized services provides a terminal area
respondents10 believing that the extent of renovation will increase from which people will be directed towards specialized needs.
over the next five years (Figure 3). With increased volume and Instead of traditional “towers” with departments, hospitals
a desire to improve patient satisfaction, coupled with changing will follow an information model with hubs, nodes, and
technologies and the desire to meet patient demands, the future communicative corridors as the core design elements.
of hospitals will continue to require change. Technology, patient
demands, and the fluctuation of particular service offerings will • Pervasive and distributed computing. Hospitals of the future
all drive a more dynamic and fluid internal environment that must will be highly wired with digital patient record keeping,
continually adapt to change and novelty in the healthcare world wireless diagnostic devices, and other forms of information and
of the future. collaboration enhancing tools to enhance productivity, and
track and adjust to shifting conditions rapidly. Like El Camino
FIGURE 3: Renovation Anticipated, 2005-2010 Hospital in California, one of the nation’s most wired health
100% care environments, workflow and hospital facilities will need
to be adjusted to the role digital technology plays in “ABC”
80% (Activity Based Computing) as more diagnostic, treatment, and
recovery is supported by digital devices and work processes.


• Hospitals will increasingly be modular. Generalized rooms
will be fitted with core elements that can be easily swapped
40% out to address patient or staff requirements as demographic
trends and patient needs shift over time. Instead of building
a fixed design, fluid environments will be created which can
adapt to change as needed.

0% • Integrative medicine integrated in workflow and space
More Less The Same planning. As demand for integrative medicine grows in
Extent of Renovation modern healthcare, the integration of wellness centers into
the overall hospital environment and work plan will need to
CURRENT AND FUTURE DESIGN TRENDS be accommodated. The creation of a global integrative care
model will affect how spaces are planned, shifting from rigid
Because of the increasingly fluid technology and consumer driven departmental floors to a more holistic approach to total care.
dynamics of the health care environment discussed above, there is
an opportunity to move away from traditional “brick and mortar”
hospital construction towards more flexible environments where
change can be accommodated and addressed rapidly and

Hospitals in Flux © MKThink 2005. Reproduction prohibited without permission. Page 4

The modern hospital built environment is one of constant change,
forced to respond to external drivers putting significant pressure
on outmoded facilities. Adapting these changes requires continual
renovations by facilities managers who must make choices to
address a variety of new pressures.

In order to respond to the increasing pace of technological
change and competitive pressure, hospitals will have to embrace
new design and construction paradigms that support flexibility
and adaptability.

A focus on thoughtful planning and research is a core element
to success in this process. The more forethought, research, and
analysis, both qualitative and quantitative, that goes into the
planning process, the higher the likelihood of success.

Hospitals in Flux © MKThink 2005. Reproduction prohibited without permission. Page 5

1. Reed, Abelson. “Hospitals, Eager to Build, May Find Funds MKThink reveals and opti mizes the nexus between people and
Scarcer,” New York Times, 15 June 2004. their environments. Led by principals Mark Miller, Steve Kelley and
2. American Hospital Association, available from Nate Goore, MKThink creates dynamic strategies that help solve organizational challenges.
3. U.S. Census Bureau Report. “Hospitals: 2002,” 2002
Economic Census: Health Care and Social The MKThink team, comprised of anthropologists, psychologists
Assistance Industry Series, August 2004; available from and business people, as well as architects and urban planners, strives to fully understand their clients’ identities, needs, goals
4-10. MKThink research, January 2005 and culture before ever putting pen to paper. With a strong
background in learning, workplace, community and healing
environments, MKThink boasts a wealth of capabilities, including
strategic, analytic and design services.

Hospitals in Flux © MKThink 2005. Reproduction prohibited without permission. Page 6