Kara Brooks, senior associate director of sustainability at ASHE, leads a panel discussion on decarbonization with Geoffrey Glass, senior manager of energy and sustainability at Providence; Terri Scannell, principal advisor of sustainability and environmental, social and governance at Ohio Health; and Timothy Peglow, associate vice president for patient care and prevention facilities at MD Anderson Cancer Center

Image from ASHE

The 2024 International Summit & Exhibition on Health Care Facility Planning, Design & Construction (PDC Summit) brought together thousands of professionals who have a stake in health care operations to San Diego March 17-20.   

The roster of attendees, sessions and exhibitors were as professionally diverse as the organizations hosting the event. The American Society for Health Care Engineering (ASHE) was joined by Supporting Organizations from the fields of architecture, interior design, engineering, nursing and security (see the full list of Supporting Organizations below) all focused on building facilities that can respond to today’s challenges and meet tomorrow’s needs.

The summit showcased a mix of leadership development and concurrent sessions that dove into the brass tacks of planning, design and construction.

Shola Richards, author of Go Together and Making Work Work, kicked off the conference as this year’s keynote speaker with a message focused on kindness. The self-proclaimed “kindness extremist” gave attendees three questions to ask themselves to help increase their emotional intelligence when communicating with their teams: Is it kind? Is it true? Is it necessary? A “yes” to all three questions is a welcomed gage when determining when and how to share information with others. 

Another tip? Richards says it’s important to operate from your “hire” self, that is, the person one purports to be during their job interview before they were hired. To accomplish this consistently, Richards says one only needs to focus on doing the right thing for “just today.” 

Keeping that frame of mind throughout the conference, attendees could choose from sessions spanning from infection control in construction and design to research exploring how different genders engage with exam room designs. 

The schedule was also designed to meet different expertise levels. Sessions ran the gamut, from education tailored toward those new to the field and seeking fundamental knowledge to advanced-level discussions suited to experts with years of experience. 

For instance, Leah Hummel, AIA, CHFM, CHC, senior associate director of regulatory affairs at ASHE, participated in a panel discussion alongside Tina Duncan, AIA, ACHA, CBO, director of codes and standards at HKS Inc., and Henry Kosarzycki, AIA, code architect at Flad Architects, that helped attendees navigate the labyrinth of health care codes when designing and renovating facilities. 

The speakers advised professionals to stock their regulatory bookshelves with the codes, standards and guidelines applicable to their facilities. Hummel, Duncan and Kosarzycki recommended starting with a few key questions to determine what those “books” are for their facilities: 

  • Is the facility new or existing?
  • What type of occupancy is the facility classified as?
  • Is the facility deemed by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services?
  • What are the code, standard and/or guideline editions adopted by the authorities having jurisdiction that survey/accredit the facility? 

In addition to issues of compliance, the conference also highlighted sustainability and technology during its general and concurrent sessions. 

Kara Brooks, MS, LEED AP BD+C, senior associate director of sustainability at ASHE, tapped into the expertise of Terri Scannell, principal advisor of sustainability and environmental, social and governance at Ohio Health; Geoffrey Glass, senior manager of energy and sustainability at Providence; and Timothy Peglow, P.E., SASHE, associate vice president for patient care and prevention facilities at MD Anderson Cancer Center based in the Houston area, for a general session titled “Prescribing Sustainability: Explore Multifaceted Paths to Hospital Decarbonization.”

Brooks explained that the evolving regulatory landscape is moving toward greater regulation of greenhouse gas emissions, with several states and locales adopting greenhouse gas reduction targets to be hit by varying timeframes. Scannell shared how OhioHealth was successful in using Inflation Reduction Act incentives to fund a solar array at one if its facilities, bringing the cost down from $300,000 to $70,000. Peglow also shared wins seen at MD Anderson, such as reducing steam use by 40% and chilled water use by 10%. Glass referred to an initiative at Providence to eliminate nitrous oxide leaks across its facilities. 

Regarding technology, several sessions highlighted the digitization of care and how that can inform future health care physical environment design. For instance, with laboratory equipment becoming smaller and smaller, will hospitals need to dedicate as much space to these functions? Will drone ports become a regular feature as hospitals experiment with alternative medical supply delivery methods? 

These are questions Daniel Kraft, M.D., a physician-scientist, posed during a session titled “The Future of Health & Medicine: Where can Technology Take Us?” Though many of the questions are yet to be answered, and will likely require evolving answers, Kraft says that health care, which is already behind in digital adoption, must adapt to rapid change in patients’ desires and behaviors.

The conference wrapped with several talks on collaboration and the intersection of health care disciplines. 

ASHE Executive Director Lizzie Ortolano moderated a panel discussion with representatives from the conference’s Supporting Organizations to share how each field is working to bridge the gaps that sometimes exist in health care.

For instance, ASHRAE shared how it partnered with ASHE on the new Guideline 43, Operations Guideline for Ventilation of Health Care Facilities, which is open for public comment until April 15. The Association of periOperative Registered Nurses (AORN) also tapped on ASHE to help it refine language of its Sterile Technique guideline. AORN also worked with the Facility Guidelines Institute (FGI) to ensure language it used in its Guideline for Design and Maintenance of the Surgical Suite was consistent with terms used by FGI.

Other challenges addressed by the speakers included labor shortages, inflation and supply chain shortages. 

The Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology shared how it worked with the Department of Labor to create a job code for infection preventionists and create internships for future epidemiologists. 

Regarding inflation and supply chain impacts, the panelists cautioned against making decisions based solely on current market headaches because it could lead to undesirable effects in the future. For example, although upfront costs for materials are much higher in today’s market, scuttling intended design plans or foregoing certain pieces of equipment due to price inflation or long lead times could end up costing health care facilities more in the long-term. 

Interested in attending next year’s PDC Summit? Save the dates of March 9-12, 2025, when the summit travels to Atlanta. Sign up for alerts on the PDC Summit and other ASHE events, including the Health Care Facilities Innovation Conference in July, to stay up to date.

PDC Summit Supporting Organizations

The International Summit & Exhibition on Health Facility Planning, Design & Construction is jointly produced by the American Society for Health Care Engineering; the American College of Healthcare Architects; Academy of Architecture for Health, a Knowledge Community of the American Institute of Architecture; Association of periOperative Registered Nurses; Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology; ASHRAE; The Center for Health Design; Facility Guidelines Institute; International Association for Healthcare Security & Safety; Nursing Institute for Healthcare Design; and the American Academy of Healthcare Interior Designers.