The healthcare industry is inundated with data. Hospitals and health systems receive an influx of data from a multitude of sources such as the electronic health record, insurance claims, employee and patient surveys, suppliers and vendors.
Furthermore, an increase in mergers and acquisitions of hospital systems over the last decade has compounded data complications. Many health systems are left dealing with siloed data sets across their vast networks, as consolidating and combining these data sources into one comprehensive, standardized system is an incredibly costly endeavor.
In fact, when it comes to using data to evaluate and define the condition of facilities, facility planning leaders say disparate datasets are among the biggest obstacles — in addition to incomplete data and inconsistent data collection, according to a recent Gordian survey of facility planning leaders.
Although data is foundational to thoughtful and strategic facility planning, leveraging data alone is not enough, as it still tends to be vulnerable to misguided action and subjective thinking. Instead, healthcare organizations should adopt a validated, comprehensive decision-making framework to achieve authoritative facility planning. The framework makes sure that healthcare organizations realize the full potential of data, transforming what has been an overwhelming headache for healthcare, to a manageable and strategic asset.
Furthermore, a defined framework for decision-making drastically improves how facility planning is approached by healthcare leaders.
“The framework transforms facility planning from merely supporting a healthcare organization’s mission to helping define the mission,” said Mark Kenneday, director of market strategy and development for healthcare at Gordian.
How do you define a framework for decision-making in facility planning?
A validated framework for decision-making is a reliable construct for healthcare organizations to apply to make informative, data-based and objective facility investments that align with the organizational mission and strategic plan.
There are several key components to a decision-making framework:
- Emphasize objective input and modeling: At its core, the framework’s aim is to enable healthcare organizations to make facility planning decisions based on objective insights. Therefore, as leaders adopt the framework, the information collected should be unbiased and reliable.
- Take historical performance into account: Identify pertinent information and data over multiple years. This should comprise patient utilization data from the electronic health record, claims data from insurers, patient experience survey results, as well as data from facility condition assessments, which provide a reliable inventory of all physical assets that require funding to maintain. The data should then be validated by relevant stakeholders.
- Align space, capital and operations: Most healthcare systems take a siloed approach to planning, neglecting to look holistically at their whole portfolio of buildings and operations. This can lead to poorly executed facility investments and more expenses. The framework moves away from this method, instead evaluating the entire inventory of facilities and finding opportunities for aligned investments.
- Integrate disparate datasets when possible: Although its costly for healthcare organizations to integrate disjointed datasets, there are benefits to doing so, such as gleaning new insights and reducing inefficiencies. Given this, there should be an effort to integrate datasets as much as feasibly possible.
- Establish portfolios of need to focus investments: There are likely many facility projects to consider but also the reality of capital constraints. To smartly determine which investments to make, select projects that align with the organization’s mission and take into account the physical condition of the facility.
- Activate story-telling and collaboration: The mission of healthcare organizations is to provide exceptional patient care. As facility planners present new projects, they should demonstrate through effective storytelling how the proposal will help the organization achieve its mission. Additionally, facility planning should be collaborative, with key stakeholders such as employees and patients asked to offer their input.
The benefits of a decision-making framework
This comprehensive framework positively transforms how healthcare organizations approach facility planning at every level.
First, it elevates the role of facility planners, who have been historically removed from strategic discussions with senior leaders about current and future investments.
“By adopting the framework, it’s encouraging organizations to reevaluate the way in which they communicate and collaborate with each other,” said Pete Zuraw, vice president of market strategy and development at Gordian. “Too often, the people who are operating in the facilities realm have hugely important information to be brought to the table, and it’s not being heard.”
And because the framework leverages data and benchmarking, healthcare organizations are far more likely to make short-and long-term decisions that align with the strategic mission and vision of their organization. This leads to cost savings, better employee and patient experience, and greater efficiency.
“Looking holistically at data from all sources allows for a greater understanding of space, capital and operational activity. That context forces facility planning away from being merely a technical discussion, to a conversation about the larger purpose for the organization,” Zuraw said.
In the absence of such a framework, healthcare organizations are vulnerable to making facility planning choices based on personal opinions from executives or patients. Seemingly unbiased data sources can also be made vulnerable to subjective application if they are not supported within a facility planning framework. This can lead to investments that don’t meet patient or community needs and therefore are not reflective of the organizational mission.
Implementing the framework also enables healthcare organizations to make strategic facility decisions that account for future demands and potential risks. While unexpected situations will always arise, a decision-making framework inspires healthcare organizations to anticipate with greater certainty what the needs will be going forward because its comprehensively evaluating the entire suite of facilities and seeking feedback from relevant stakeholders. By being proactive rather than reactive, healthcare organizations can attain vast cost savings through smarter facility investments.
This change in mindset even encourages leaders to approach deferred maintenance differently, viewing it through a risk management lens rather than a costly, overwhelming problem.
Why healthcare organizations should partner with Gordian
The task of adopting a decision-making framework is challenging for healthcare organizations faced with limited resources and slim operating margins.
Gordian works alongside healthcare organizations to assist in realizing each step of the framework, from data acquisition and analysis to leadership support and alignment. Additionally, after the framework is implemented, Gordian offers guidance and performance tracking to assess whether the organization is on the right track or should pivot.
“Somebody who doesn't sit in your chair can bring to bear new and exciting insights that you hadn’t thought of before,” Kenneday said. “That third-party perspective is profound, and Gordian brings that to every institution we work with.”
Learn more about Gordian and the services we provide by visiting our website.