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Would Workforce Housing Near Hospitals Help Reduce Worker Shortage?

From telehealth and wrap-around services to healthcare provider shortages, the business of delivering care to patients is undergoing a massive shift.

Aging, inefficient buildings put additional strain on resources, and remodels burden both providers and  patients.  

Last week, the commercial real estate industry and healthcare professionals came together to discuss the changes, problems and some solutions at Bisnow’s National Healthcare Pacific Northwest event.

Jefferson Healthcare's Mike Glenn, HDR Architecture's Duncan Griffin, Seattle Cancer Care Alliance's Nancy Davidson, UW's Lisa Brandenburg, Swedish Health Services' Dr. R. Guy Hudson, Cumming Corp.'s William Voulkes and the panel's moderator, OpenSquare's Rhonda Pollard.

One of the major issues facing Puget Sound is gridlock discouraging healthcare workers from seeking employment in the region’s metro markets, Overlake Medical Center President and CEO J. Michael Marsh said.

“There is a need to rethink this entire process,” he said. “I have been in this business for more than 30 years and I never thought that workforce retention would depend on housing, but it is now."

The problem could be that employees can no longer commute to and from work in a timely fashion. It is too expensive to live in the metro markets, but it is also too hard for the workforce to commute. Workforce housing would make a big difference in reducing staff shortages.

ZGF Architect’s Victoria Nichols, Rider Levett Bucknall’s Von Lambert, PAE Consulting Engineers’ Daniella Wahler and Overlake’s J. Michael Marsh discuss healthcare facilities.

“There are 1,900 nurse vacancies with in a 10-mile radius of Overlake,” he said. “There are also IT shortages, medical assistant shortages. Eastside is a place that is expensive to live in and hard to get to.” 

Well-designed buildings, however, do make a difference in minimizing the effect on short-handed staffs. Though it doesn’t help with the traffic, buildings designed around details like circadian rhythm patterns help retain employees by providing a healthy environment, ZGF Architects partner Victoria Nichols said. 

“We have to be intentional,” she added. All parties have to be rigorous about designing buildings so they offer private places, allow for easy wayfinding and have integrative facility design. 

“It’s not always expensive,” she said. “It’s often the little things.”

In order to efficiently make the best facility, proper budgeting needs to be done up front, PAE Consulting Engineers Senior Associate Daniella Moreano Wahler said.

Planning helps to keep the customer experience positive during remodeling, Marsh said. 

At Overlake, administrators didn’t want to use the remodel as an excuse for the patient experience to be diminished so the remodel was planned around that.

“Sure enough, the patient experience has gone up,” he said. 

Abbott Construction’s Kyle Raschkow and Modern Edge’s Austen Angell

Rider Levett Bucknall Senior Project Manager Von Lambert recommends improving a building’s flow to help offset the workforce shortage. Better flow makes it easier to move from one area to another more efficiently. 

Emerging telehealth and other uses of technology also affect how facilities are now used.

“Technology will open options for us,” UW Medicine Chief Health System Officer Lisa Brandenburg said. “We need to think about the role of research and about what we can do to put that research into practice.”

Brandenburg touted the new hepatitis C organ transplant solution that now allows organ donations to come from those who had hep C.

“Thirteen people this year got organs that wouldn’t have before,” she said.

TGB Architects’ Melissa Kelii, Ankrom Molsan Architects’ Molly Wolf, Vera Whole Health’s Jennifer Sargent and Microsoft Healthcare NExT’s Bill Cox

The healthcare industry is also recognizing its impact on the environment, HDR Architecture Managing Principal Duncan Griffin said. The carbon trapped inside healthcare buildings is its own harm and his firm is looking for innovative ways to develop facility design that reduces the carbon footprint.

Swedish Health Services CEO Dr. R. Guy Hudson brought it all together by telling the audience that information technology is intersecting with biotechnology and he expects great changes to take place.

OAC’s Derek Rae, Benaroya Research Institute’s Margaret McCormick, HOK Seattle’s Hugh Campbell and DPR Construction’s Chris Clayton discuss life science growth and Seattle’s role as an immunology hub.

“The data is more predictive and we can work upstream to keep you healthy and treat you when you are sick,” he said. “We are all working towards this road very effectively.”

Hudson sees the medical community as rivals rather than competitors.

“It’s all about people who want to drive healthcare forward,” he said. “We want to solve problems by allowing more people to come together and work together.”

Ventas’ David Boitano, PMB’s Mark Jones and Aegis Living’s Kris Engskov discuss assisted living.