Up Close: Dan Polachek, AIA, CID

Dan Polachek, AIA, CID

05.06.14

What changes are driving the healthcare industry?

There are several factors impacting the healthcare industry today, including demographic forces and the need to care for an aging population. The Baby Boomers are reaching retirement age and they are living longer than past generations. This increased life expectancy places greater pressure on healthcare organizations to provide services for an aging population amid a developing shortage of healthcare workers. Healthcare organizations will need to attract qualified doctors, nurses and caregivers to care for this diverse population as volume shifts from inpatient to outpatient, with higher-acuity patients staying in hospitals.

Economic forces are prompting healthcare organizations to focus on cost-containment, preventive care and operational efficiency amid changing reimbursements under the Affordable Care Act, with greater emphasis on patient outcomes under the evolving Accountable Care Model. Yet an increasing population of uninsured and immigrant patients will continue to put financial pressure on healthcare organizations to meet needs.

Finally, global forces are impacting the U.S. healthcare industry, with the threat of infectious diseases in high-population areas, prescription drug importation via online commerce, and the growing popularity of medical tourism as more patients seek high-quality care internationally. Medical tourism, in fact, is challenging the U.S.'s traditional dominance in attracting international patients as more global healthcare organizations offer the same high-quality care at lower costs and faster turn-around time.   

What are the biggest challenges your clients face?

Whether managing a critical access hospital, community clinic or integrated medical center, our clients are looking at their current business models to determine how they can adapt to new healthcare delivery methods and reimbursements.

For instance, healthcare organizations face new challenges as they implement comprehensive Electronic Health Records to meet federal mandates under the Affordable Care Act. The infrastructure and staff costs involved in re-tooling to a fully integrated digital platform in the wireless age are presenting budgeting challenges for many organizations.

Our clients also are looking to distinguish themselves from the competition to maintain market share and patient/provider loyalty. Patients have more choices today, from micro-clinics in retail outlets to online healthcare resources. While competition helps contain costs and encourage quality-focused innovation, organizations need to better communicate their competitive advantage to their patient base. Many of our rural clients are doing just this as they remodel or replace their existing critical access hospitals to provide the same high-quality care of a larger urban hospital to give patients the hometown choice and attract top caregivers.

How can you help healthcare organizations address these challenges?

Every healthcare organization is unique, and every healthcare facility presents a unique set of conditions. Our ability to understand clients' organizational processes and challenges through creative problem-solving is essential to helping them improve their care delivery methods and address their marketplace needs.

While every solution is unique, flexibility and operational efficiency are at the core of successful healthcare planning. Unlike other commercial buildings, healthcare facilities often are owned and operated by the same organization for the long-term. By focusing on flexible, efficient space planning, healthcare organizations can develop solutions that appropriately enhance their unique qualities and provide lasting value for greater patient and staff satisfaction.