Reducing the cost of care through the built environment (Podcast included)

Third in a series based on the IMEG executive guide, “Enhancing the Quadruple Aim through Data-driven Decisions in the Built Environment.”  A related podcast featuring Joel Yow of linear A can be found at the end of this post.

By Mike Lawless 

Reducing the cost of care—the second goal of the Quadruple Aim—has become a rallying cry for healthcare organizations. The built environment of a new facility can contribute significantly to this goal since facility costs represent a huge portion of the red ink on a healthcare company’s ledger. Facility cost reduction strategies include: 

Controlling construction costs. Using the built environment to help control the cost of care starts with managing the cost to build the environment in the first place. However, if cost decisions are based solely on simple cost of construction, an institution may miss opportunities that support and maximize the goals of the Quadruple Aim. To guard against this, healthcare organizations should: 

  •  Balance first cost vs. operating cost. Finding a balance between first costs and operating costs is critical to producing the maximum cost savings to pass on to patients while still meeting the goals of the Quadruple Aim. 
  • Prioritize the ROI of building features. While high-ROI features may increase first and operational costs, they may also lead to additional revenue or increase the value of the property, making it easy to refinance. This can improve the organization’s bottom line, enabling it to offer lower costs of care. To further support the Quadruple Aim, ROI discussions also need to consider the impact building features have on staff productivity and patient outcomes. 

Reducing operating costs. The built environment can reduce and control operating costs in various ways, including: 

  • Designing the building with full-time employees in mind. Designing the built environment with the expectation of a large, full-time staff can save costs on expensive renovations in the future. Strategies include making design allowances for movement, employee devices, private employee spaces, and other employee amenities. 
  • Optimizing data. It is imperative for healthcare owners to harness and leverage the data of the Internet of Things to change the way infrastructure operates, communicates, and is controlled. 
  • Utilizing an efficient HVAC system. Installing efficient HVAC systems can more than pay for themselves by delivering a reduction of 30 percent to 50 percent in the building’s energy expense.   

Avoiding unnecessary features. Some of the key culprits include overbuilt mechanical systems, overlapping equipment locations, and overbuilt interiors that run up material costs. When a design and construction team keep the Quadruple Aim’s goals front and center, however, focus shifts from individual, potentially cost-inefficient strategies to those that support the big picture and lead to better outcomes for patients, staff, and community. 

Listen to a related podcast:

Also in this series:  

For more information, download a copy of the IMEG executive guide, “Enhancing the Quadruple Aim through Data-driven Decisions in the Built Environment.” 

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