leanhealthcare_spaceresourcesIn most healthcare facilities today space is at a premium.  People and departments always seem to need more of it.  Leadership hopes to use it for functions that will generate revenue; staff want it for storage or support; and everyone wants an office with a window.  Do “squatter’s rights” rule your facility or have you found a way to organize and prioritize the best use of available square footage (whether or not you’re building)?

Lean Healthcare principles stress identifying and eliminating waste in our daily work.  Monitoring how your physical facility is utilized should be part of that search for wastefulness.  Treat the space available in your facility just as you would any other valuable resource—be purposeful about its use.  To make good space decisions there should be a review process that considers two points:

  1. Does the requested use for space support an organizational priority?
  2. Does the requested space support a well-defined operational workflow?

The first point may be relatively simple to answer through previously defined leadership goals and objectives.  Does the request directly impact the achievement of a key strategic initiative?  Would adding or reconfiguring space support the reduction of waste in other areas?  From a Lean Healthcare perspective ask yourself if the proposed use of space adds value for the patient.

The real difficulty arises when multiple high priority requests compete for limited resources – either in existing available space or capital funding for construction or renovation.  This is where the second point plays a critical role.

Before allocating space to a process or department, a functional workflow should be fully developed.  Lean Healthcare tools such as value stream mapping, 5S and process led design help form truly follow function and by defining an efficient workflow and then assigning the space needed to support that workflow.  In new construction or renovation, Lean applied to architectural design can ensure this synergy of function and form by developing future state workflows prior to the initiation of schematic design.  This forces the workflow requirements to drive the architectural layouts.

If the question you face is to build or not to build, let the workflows answer.  By redefining workflows and using Lean Healthcare principles to eliminate waste in the future state you may even be surprised to learn you can be equally effective in less space than you ever would have been in more!

For more information on HPP’s Lean-Led Design and Lean Facility Solutions, check out our website.


KendallKarenRSToday’s blog was written by Karen Kendall, RN, healthcare planner with HPP. Karen is a registered nurse with more than 30 years of healthcare experience in clinical and leadership roles.

Before joining HPP, Karen led multi-disciplinary teams through operational and space planning and work redesign efforts which resulted in in significantly improved efficiency, patient satisfaction and employee engagement. She has extensive experience in campus master planning, equipment planning, and way-finding. She has also served in clinical and leadership roles in a variety of areas including invasive cardiovascular services, surgical services and pediatrics.

Karen holds a Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree as well as a Master of Healthcare Administration degree from Duke University.

Image by Freepik from FlatIcon

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