Evolving Construction within the Healthcare Industry
Healthcare Construction – The Focus
Each year, the healthcare industry spends over $40 billion on construction and renovations. This expenditure has helped hospitals evolve dramatically, improving the quality of life of patients while renovations are ongoing. Uninterrupted patient care, patient safety, and infection control risk management are each a priority when it comes to healthcare industry construction projects.
What has changed in the last 5 years?
As the healthcare industry has come under scrutiny for hospital-acquired infections, hospitals are doing everything in their power to reduce the chances of exposing patients to new illnesses during their stay.
Hospital-acquired infections cost $30 Billion to the healthcare industry each year
With medicare refusing to reimburse providers for hospital-acquired infection costs, infection control risk management has been top of mind for administrations. Healthcare construction is one of the many factors contributing to hospital-acquired infections, and hospitals have needed a way to de-risk their construction and renovation projects.
This movement towards a safer hospital renovation brought forward a new challenge for the construction industry. How do you work on a healthcare site with minimal disruption? This includes reducing patient displacement and disturbance, foot traffic through the building, and particulate in the air.
Traditional Healthcare Construction
The old method for reducing the chances of infection during construction work included closing large portions of the healthcare institution for a period of time while the construction team worked. This method would often displace a large portion of the hospital’s patients and would decrease the maximum occupancy (and revenue potential) of the hospital.
This risk management issue was compounded in small outpatient centers, which would need to close their facility while renovation projects were in progress. By closing their doors during these renovations, smaller healthcare providers were unable to provide treatment to the surrounding community and were losing all of their potential revenue. This made construction projects unviable for smaller centers looking to improve their infrastructure and treatment capabilities.
De-Risking Healthcare Construction
Emerging technology and increased awareness have been the driving force behind solving the infection control issue within healthcare construction.
Hospitals are now required to have an Infection Control Risk Assessment (also known as ICRA) conducted before each new construction project. This program developed by the Center for Disease Control was put in place to assist health departments in addressing infection prevention practices and to establish quality improvement activities.
The Infection Control Risk Assessment allows hospitals to understand how a construction project will affect infection control measurements in place. By determining the areas of potential infection, the hospitals can take measures to correct the issue during a renovation.
Construction companies have been adapting to the needs of hospitals by making a push towards increased education and more efficient implementation of ICRA. These efforts have helped construction companies reduce the impact and space needed for renovation projects at healthcare centers while maintaining clean air space.
The Evolving Healthcare Construction Industry
Construction companies understand that hospital environments need to be handled much differently than ordinary construction sites. With highly educated Union carpenters, each worker on healthcare-related projects goes through 8-24 hours of Infection Control Risk Assessment training. This training has led to the industry putting measures in place to reduce the disruption caused by the renovations.
Some of these measures include implementing containment barriers, negative air systems, HEPA filtration, and general clean work practices to proactively minimize infection risk.
Implementing ICRA at Martin-Zombek Construction
In a recent project at River Hospital, based in Alexandria Bay, NY, the Martin-Zombek Construction team has had to add and remove ICRA barriers throughout the construction process. A series of tunnels are developed to allow the team to work on partitions with minimal intrusion into the healthcare professionals daily routine. These tunnels, as seen in images below, are not permanent structures, but are removed once a specific area of the construction build is complete.
Martin-Zombek field supervisor Kris Weston pointed out “The ceilings of the ICRA barriers are constructed differently, with studs being located 12″ on center so that carpenters and other trades can work on top of the temporary structure if need be.” Kris went on to state that “ICRA barriers have been a monumental step in ensuring a cleaner working space, and have kept hospital administration confident in our construction methods.”
ICRA systems give hospitals the ability to reduce the amount of space that needs to be cleared during a construction project. This allows the hospital to maintain the great services they provide to the community with only a minor interruption. By decreasing the risk associated with construction, healthcare institutions are more likely to renovate spaces and update technologies to increase the quality of care for their patients.