Universal Platforms: A New Approach to Facilities Design

The many challenges facing healthcare institutions are intensified when hospitals are located in rural areas. Ever-tightening budgets, aging facilities, shifting demographics and the rapid evolution of technologies are among the concerns hospital administrators are working to address. For Critical Access Hospitals (CAH), these concerns are compounded by additional uncertainties—rumors of potential revisions to the CAH program abound, which could mean changes in reimbursement, staffing and service delivery. All of these issues could have significant impact on the future of rural healthcare delivery, creating an environment of uncertainty for system administrators and the communities they serve.

Many rural facilities require upgrades now; however, administrators simply cannot wait until the future of healthcare becomes clear to address pressing needs. Despite an uncertain environment that may last years—or even decades—rural healthcare systems must continue to provide the best in care, staffing and support to the diverse populations they serve. Given ongoing financial challenges, many are searching for new approaches to deliver high-quality, cost-effective care.

Architectural Innovation

Our role as healthcare architects is to innovate the most practical and efficient solutions possible to support rural healthcare facilities and CAHs as they navigate an unknown future. While working with multiple healthcare providers across the country, including in Minnesota, we developed one solution: A universal “platform” of spaces that is adaptable, scalable, and flexible in order to meet changing and future needs, demographics, and care models.

One of our clients, CentraCare Health in Central Minnesota, has adopted this universal platform concept for new and renovated facilities. Our projects for CentraCare Health include a new 65,000-square-foot clinic and hospital in Long Prairie and a major hospital addition in Melrose, which will open this fall. By employing the universal platform model, these projects reap both immediate and long-term benefits. In the short term, initial project costs were reduced by eliminating redundant space within departments. Long-term benefits include the ability to adapt the space—with minimal disruption or cost—to changes in volume, service lines or community needs. This approach positions the facilities for success despite the uncertainties of rural healthcare—by providing the flexibility to quickly adapt to changing demands.

Read the complete article in Minnesota Physician (p. 22).