2023 PDC Summit keynote speaker Chrissa Pagitsas delivered a message on how to set 'big, hairy audacious goals.'

Image courtesy of ASHE

From mitigating the global impact of climate change and supply chain shortages to the combatting clinician burnout and workplace violence, the sessions at this year’s International Summit & Exhibition on Health Facility Planning, Design & Construction (PDC Summit) dealt out in-depth knowledge on how health care organizations can leverage the physical environment to not only improve care settings, but also the communities in which those care settings live.  

The 2023 PDC Summit, put on by the American Society for Health Care Engineering (ASHE), was hosted last week at the Phoenix Convention Center. Following pre-conference events, the summit officially kicked off with a challenge from keynote speaker Chrissa Pagitsas. Pagitsas, a strategic adviser to executives and boards on the intersection of environmental, social, governance (ESG) and global business and author of “Chief Sustainability Officers at Work,” challenged attendees to set one or two “big, hairy audacious goals” or BHAGs before the end of the conference.

As Pagitsas walked through the steps she took to launch an ESG strategy at Fannie Mae, turning the company into the largest issuer of green bonds for real estate investment, she shared the three components she used to create a BHAG.

  1. Tinker. Having a playful attitude while using the tools available and adapting other tools helps to highlight the fun of the journey when working on a new project.
  2. Persevere. As plans are developed and refined, figure out which elements don’t work and why. Continue to introduce your work to new audiences.
  3. Scale. Remember that teams matter. Work with people who know what you don’t to help push to the next level.

The Monday morning session was followed by an afternoon discussion on the current state of the global supply chain and what it entails for those leading the design and construction of health care facilities. Mike Schiller, senior director of supply chain at the Association for Health Care Resource & Materials Management, pointed out the major factors that have led to long lead times for raw materials and equipment, including COVID-19, the Russia-Ukraine War and trade wars between the U.S. and China.

Schiller also explained that the Lean techniques such as just-in-time delivery and using single source suppliers that once helped to optimize supply chains and provide cost savings to health care facilities, do not play well in the current environment when material shortages are high. The call now is to move toward supply chain flexibility and resiliency, Schiller says, and he highlights a few strategies to get there.

One strategy is to incorporate artificial intelligence into high-value, low-satisfaction tasks like invoice reconciling and payment. Another tool health care facilities can incorporate is tier mapping or tier analysis, which helps to understand potential points of error in the supply chain and eliminate them. Schiller also advises health facilities professionals to turn to tried-and-true methods to keep construction costs down, such as prefabrication and storing construction materials if a warehouse is available. Moving from reactive to proactive will help facilities weather the current and future supply chain upheavals.

Day 2 of the PDC Summit continued with the theme of filtering global trends through the lens of the health care physical environment. Jason Kleinman, senior associate director of federal relations at the American Hospital Association (AHA), provided the week’s Washington D.C. update. Kleinman explored the downstream effects of decisions made by Congress on health care facilities, both negative and positive. A positive: the recently passed $369 billion Inflation Reduction Act provides financial incentives for health care facilities to invest in sustainability and decarbonization projects. A negative: a divided Congress that has yet to reach a decision on raising the debt ceiling could mean Medicare payment cuts to hospitals, further constraining hospital budgets.

For its part, Kleinman says the AHA is focused on four things in its current advocacy work to safeguard quality patient care:

  1. Ensure access to care and financial relief.
  2. Strengthen the health care workforce.
  3. Advance quality, equity and transformation.
  4. Enact regulatory and administrative relief.

After hearing about the constantly shifting D.C. political climate, Tuesday’s afternoon general session helped to highlight the need for innovation to create health care organizations that can withstand those shifts. Nicholas Webb, health care futurist and innovation expert, emphasized three trends to consider in planning health care spaces and operations in this semi post-COVID-19 world:

  1. Hyper-consumerism. How can hospitals remove friction from their designs and create relevant environments?
  2. Enterprise innovation. Every project should have a formal human experience and customer experience strategy as well as a future-casting team to become future-ready and future-proof.
  3. Human experience. Focus on the combination and balance between staff happiness and customer experience.

Day 3’s general session provided the linchpin to all the major themes of this year’s summit with the reminder that it takes collaboration to accomplish any semblance of innovation or resiliency in health care.

A panel of experts led by Joe Powell, chairman, University Research Institute, closed the conference with real-life lessons on how to foster collaboration among health care design and construction teams. Powell was joined by Clayton Mitchell, senior vice president of real estate and facilities at Thomas Jefferson University and Jefferson Health; Gregory Mohler, vice president of planning design and construction at BJC HealthCare; and Walter Jones Jr., AIA, LEED, EDAC, senior vice president of The MetroHealth System. 

As it turns out, the panel explains that the age-old, yet seemingly elusive skill of communication remains the primary tool in the toolbox that planning, design and construction professionals need to build team collaboration. Other strategies include:

  • Prioritize building construction projects using data.
  • Build connection through trust and inclusiveness.
  • Bring all teams together to create a unified culture.
  • Celebrate all wins, milestones and accomplishments. 

Each concurrent session helped to round out these big-picture topics by zooming in on issues particular to health care, such as progress on the 2024 edition of NFPA 99, Health Care Facilities Code, and how to fit a power generation system for a new bed tower on a physically constrained site. The summit also brought back the annual PDC Summit Student Design Challenge, where graduate students teamed up to create mock designs of a clinic that centers staff wellness and ways to combat burnout through design. 

ASHE will host next year’s PDC Summit in San Diego, March 17-20, 2024. Interested parties can sign up for updates.  ASHE is also currently preparing for the 2023 ASHE Annual Conference August 6-9 in San Antonio. Early-bird registration for ASHE Annual is open now.