Since the onset of the pandemic, the need for behavioral and mental health treatment has skyrocketed nationwide. In fact, the value of the behavioral health industry is expected to increase by nearly $22 billion by 2028. To meet this ever-growing need, healthcare institutions are pushing to provide additional patient space and better access with both renovations and new construction.
With unprecedented material cost escalation, behavioral healthcare providers are challenged to find balance between meeting a construction budget and meeting the specialized needs of their prospective patients. Additionally, the unstable supply chain presents hurdles to maintaining a project schedule while speed to market remains a primary goal for those providers bringing new facilities online.
While there may not be a step-by-step guide for tackling the myriad of complexities that come with building behavioral health projects in this current environment, there are some key principles that should always remain at the forefront to mitigate risk, manage expectations, and keep a project moving forward successfully.
The Client Focus
The healthcare mindset is unilaterally patient-focused, so a contractor’s must be as well. A hospital is never truly closed, and behavioral health facilities bring the additional challenge of having patients who require unique considerations. No two patients have the exact same challenges or treatment plan, so it is extremely important to closely coordinate with hospital staff to perform a safety risk assessment. Part of this assessment is an evaluation of potential hazards associated with working in behavioral health patient spaces, as well as a review of how patients will be managed during the construction period.
Gaining an understanding of daily routines and protocols allows a construction team to integrate their work into a hospital’s operations, as opposed to disrupting them. Every delivery, utility shutdown, mitigation effort, and scheduling decision must be made with input from the client to ensure the wellbeing of patients. To coordinate these efforts effectively, it is not only important to understand what the client needs and wants, but why.
The Importance of Pre-Planning
Pre-planning should always be at the forefront of a preconstruction team’s mind, regardless of the type of project. However, healthcare construction has a variety of additional variables that need to be addressed during the pre-planning stage. Performing a comprehensive safety risk assessment, as described by The Facility Guidelines Institute, is a crucial part of the preconstruction process to ensure that a safe environment is created for all patients, staff, visitors, and contractors throughout the duration of the project. This allows the staff and construction team to develop strategies and establish protocols to protect all individuals throughout each phase of the project.
In addition to the physical risks that may be encountered within an operational behavioral health facility, a construction team must be aware of schedule risks associated with specialty products, such as ligature-resistant hardware, tamper-proof fixtures, and more, that are designed into these spaces and the potential long lead times for such products. With speed to market as a common goal, early procurement of materials has become the norm to meet aggressive schedules, especially when dealing with the supply chain issues seen in today’s market. It is imperative that design elements are clearly specified and coordinated during the preconstruction phase to allow for early acquisition of the appropriate materials and equipment and avoid potential delays in the execution of the work.
Collaboration, Collaboration, Collaboration
Open communication among team members is a key to success for any construction project, but within a behavioral healthcare environment, the necessity only increases. During the preconstruction and planning stages, timely sharing of information between all team members fosters efficiency in the design process and accuracy in construction budgeting. As technology in healthcare equipment is constantly advancing, it is critical for all parties to be working with the latest and greatest information to properly design and plan for required supporting infrastructure.
When work begins on site, the need for collaboration with hospital staff only increases as conditions are always subject to change. Contractors and staff must be coordinated on communication plans for emergency situations that may arise, and the construction team must keep the hospital team apprised of any and all changes that may be necessary as work progresses. No project can be successfully completed on budget and on schedule without collaborative buy-in from all parties.
There is no “one-size-fits-all” solution to achieving successful behavioral health projects, but by focusing on these key items, the project team will be well prepared to swiftly and effectively navigate through any complications that may arise. Collaboration, pre-planning, and a client-centered mindset are the backbone of everything we do here at Warfel Construction Company, and they are the backbone of any successful behavioral health project.