I sat it on an interesting session at the recent HEALTHCARE DESIGN.11 conference in Nashville. Terry Miller, BSEE, an EVP at GBA, and Ted Hood, B.Arch, SVP and COO at GBA, discussed the importance of integrating technology planning into the construction schedule during their session “Technology Integration and the Construction Schedule—4-D BIM is Not Enough.”

If there was one selling point to consider, I’d say it may lie in the fact that the number one cause of change orders in healthcare construction projects is technology. And when IT already accounts for anywhere from 30% to 40% of total project cost, I imagine owners aren’t too interested in seeing any more technology dollars piled on top of that.

Miller discussed how BIM plays a significant role in this process, tracking and managing construction information. BIM can be used not only to help staff visualize the designed space but also can help with clash detection.

As the industry enters a whole new world of 4-D, 5-D, and even 6-D BIM (and I’ve been told of how dimensions beyond six are being applied today), this particular session focused on the 4-D component, which is layering scheduling software onto the design to offer an advantage to planning the right equipment installation at the right time.

However, this equipment often is more along the lines of building systems rather than technology specifically. But the question posed during the session is, what exactly makes a hospital a hospital? What do staff members rely upon on a daily basis to deliver care to patients?

“I’m talking about operating technology … That’s really what medical technology is,” Miller said.

The next logical question to ask ourselves, then, is how best can technology be integrated into the actual building process? Here are some things attendees were told to consider:

  • Physical connectivity
  • Logical connectivity
  • Security
  • Data sharing
  • Operational configuration

However, outside of “integration,” it looks like “interoperability” is the next buzz word. Hood said it is clear that the expectation of interoperability will start to show up on projects. For example, what if an owner wants to make the transition to wireless patient beds? It’s imperative to understand vendor/product limitations in order to avoid change orders.

Recognition of this, Hood said, is increasingly being found in the services the vendors themselves are offering. So a company that before simply sold a patient bed may now be offering all of the IT components to make that bed wireless, or an electronic medical record manufacturer may be offering all of the pieces and parts necessary to create a “smart” patient room.

And, again, Miller and Hood discussed, how this all relates to the actual construction process goes back to making sure the planning of technology is involved from the very start and on through completion for a more streamlined execution.

“Making it all work is really what the owner is expecting,” Miller said.