Reimagining healthcare infrastructure post pandemic

Thinking

Five opportunities to reimagine health infrastructure for efficiency, agility and sustainability

The COVID-19 pandemic has shone a particular light on the vulnerabilities of our infrastructure – especially in healthcare – already under pressure from ageing assets, increasing demand and challenging future funding scenarios. This has accelerated the need to explore new models of infrastructure planning, investment, design, operations and delivery.

In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, there is an increasing interest in reform in healthcare delivery, so that systems are capable of being responsive to pandemics, and meeting shifting consumer appetite and preference towards more digital healthcare access options. Healthcare system providers have had to quickly adapt their service delivery models and will need to continue to innovate as improved outcomes are demanded from limited investment dollars.

Aurecon’s Health Industry Leader for Australia, Ben Coxon, and Health Industry Leader for New Zealand, Nick Gordge says there are five trends and opportunities that should be considered when planning future healthcare infrastructure, which is applicable to any industry facing similar challenges.

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1. Optimising existing assets

We need to look beyond simply building more, by repurposing what we already have through strategic asset management and utilising tools such as digital twins and applying data analytics through machine learning, to help inform better investment decision-making, and improve the planning and operation of existing assets.

2. Applying digital tools and approaches

While there are many digital tools that can be used to better manage the operation of healthcare assets and improve the patient experience, smart use of digital solutions also helps with business cases and capital investment decisions.

Digital can be used to better plan infrastructure upgrades and new asset builds to ensure they are done more efficiently and within time and budgetary constraints. Harnessing the power of digital in the design of assets using computational design and multi-dimensional modelling also helps in planning to improve efficiency, quality and costs.

3. Using smart construction techniques

By utilising smart construction methods such as Design for Manufacture and Assembly (DfMA), incorporating offsite modular and/or on-site robotic construction, we can design and deliver flexible infrastructure efficiently and cost effectively. Aurecon took a smart construction staging approach at Longreach Hospital to ensure a major redevelopment and upgrade could be delivered efficiently in an operational facility.

When we construct smarter, we can also reduce the cost of delivery overall and make our healthcare assets more flexible and adaptable to future demands.

4. De-risking delivery

While not applicable to all sites, using a programmatic approach to group similar projects together either by type, function, or region, can add significant value for money, reducing risk, and achieving better business performance. Aurecon is helping to expand and refurbish Logan Hospital by focusing on coordination and collaboration between designers and contractors across the programme, to de-risk the delivery.

5. Investigating alternative funding models

Increasingly, we are seeing a mixture of technology companies moving into the healthcare delivery space and bringing more funding to projects as well as digital solutions, and other forms of private capital helping to fund health-orientated infrastructure.

How can healthcare providers future-proof healthcare infrastructure?

With the costs of healthcare delivery increasing more than the rate of spending, there is a need to seek better infrastructure solutions, which can also be applied to other industries facing similar challenges of ageing assets, the need for flexibility, increased costs and restricted budgets.

If we look at things differently, we can deliver more than just more hospitals. We can deliver a diverse, agile, and sustainable healthcare system for our communities.

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About the Authors

Ben Coxon is Aurecon’s Health Industry Leader – Australia. He has over 23 years’ experience in structural and façade engineering including high-rise construction, sport facilities, hotels, residential, commercial and health and education developments. In his current role, Ben engages with Aurecon’s health clients to understand their challenges and find solutions that exceed their expectations. He also actively supports and encourages innovation and skill development in his team.

Nick Gordge is Aurecon’s Health Industry Leader – New Zealand. Nick has more than 30 years’ experience in the delivery of complex projects. He is a Chartered Electrical Engineer whose experience has been gained working on projects in the United Kingdom, Hong Kong, Russia, Ukraine and Brunei. He has an open and participative style, which helps create a culture of excellence and a “one team” environment in which people excel.

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