As vice president and director of Healthcare at Kraus-Anderson, Camille Helou oversees a group ranked #11 in the nation by Modern Healthcare magazine.
Q: What with shifting demographics, changing technology, consolidation of care providers and let’s not forget the Affordable Care Act, It’s hard to imagine an industry with more dynamics in play than healthcare. If you had to pick one, what would you say is the overall biggest driver in the healthcare industry today?
HELOU: Patient experience. That idea greatly influences all of those other elements. More than ever before, the American healthcare system is consumer-driven, and therefore increasingly focused on the experience that the patients and their families have in the system and in the care facilities.
Q: How does that goal of quality patient experience manifest itself in healthcare construction?
HELOU: In terms of hospitals, providers are striving to create the best possible experience while at the same time keeping costs down. So we’re seeing fewer and shorter hospital stays. Recovering patients are more often being transferred to hospitality facilities soon after surgery. Hospitals are converting to more private hospital rooms and hotel-like rooms, with more emphasis on homelike furnishings and amenities for visitors and family as well as patients.
Also, the average age of the existing physical plant is over ten years, so we anticipate more market-driven remodeling and infrastructure work in those environments to support better quality patient care.
Q: What are the trends in the outpatient treatment model?
HELOU: Specialty Care and Primary Care facilities are continuing to grow and evolve. Again, there’s increased focus on the patient experience and convenience, which includes everything from the moment you drive in and park, to check in, waiting areas, to exam and treatment areas. The newer clinics are designed with lots of natural light, natural materials such as wood and stone work, resilient flooring and other design choices to promote calm and enhance the experience. Retail healthcare like the Minute Clinic is becoming more prevalent to more consumers.
Q: How does construction progress safely and efficiently in occupied hospital or other healthcare space?
HELOU: Very carefully! Our team members are extremely aware that they are working in close proximity to vulnerable patient populations every day. We quite literally can be doing demolition work just a wall or ceiling away from surgery suites and patient rooms. Our team is responsible for implementing rigorous infection prevention measures and works very collaboratively with all levels of hospital staff, equipment technicians, vendors and so on to schedule all activities so as to avoid disruption and to uphold way finding, comfort, convenience and quality patient care. Planning the work way ahead of time is of very high importance to our process and vital to maintaining the hospital’s operation.
Q: Talk about the impact of the Affordable Care Act on what the KA healthcare team does.
HELOU: It’s the new standard. Quality of care is a big component of the ACA, and construction could have an enormous impact on that quality. So we see our role as that of construction partner with the healthcare provider in supporting and protecting their mission of care excellence and patient experience. Our processes are tailored to our clients’ needs and expectations in how they meet their standards of patient care.
Q: How distinct is healthcare construction expertise from other types of construction?
HELOU: Thirty years ago if you were just building a core and shell medical office building on a green field site, it might be pretty generic to a standard office building, maybe even a school building. Today, however, there’s a lot more to consider. What function or functions will take place in the finished facility? What are the special needs of the patient population to be served? What mechanical, electrical considerations are relevant? What specialized equipment will be installed and what supporting infrastructure is required? Will lasers, radiation, or other potentially harmful materials be used? What is the proximity to occupied spaces? What are the controls for noise? Dust? Vibration? Utility shut offs? Pedestrian and car traffic? How tight is the footprint of the site, and how does that affect the staging area for materials and equipment? Logistical issues are critical to the project’s success, so close communication not only to all decision makers, but to all affected parties, is a vital part of what we do.
Q: How does the KA Healthcare team stay on top of industry trends?
HELOU: It’s a continuous process of education and experience, and we’re fortunate to have a highly skilled and motivated group. Our team includes a growing number of Certified Healthcare Constructors (CHC), ASHE Health Care Construction certificate holders (HCC), LEED-certified and LEAN process professionals, and others with advanced training in healthcare construction. KA University offers preparatory courses for certification exams as well as continuing education opportunities and is a great resource for us as well as for the many clients and associates who take advantage of its offerings. Also, healthcare construction industry seminars and conferences are another great resource for us to further our healthcare knowledge and expertise. It is an exciting place to be.