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Kelsey Neubauer


The coronavirus pandemic has ushered in a new era for healthcare infrastructure. 

Since its onset, medical systems have used technology and implemented rapid changes in design to quickly adjust to public health needs. Now, they are looking to prepare for the next pandemic by expanding and rethinking infrastructure, experts said on a Bisnow webinar Tuesday about healthcare innovation and transformation. 

“I don’t think the hospitals were expecting, none of us, were really expecting this,” said Karen Heidelberger, a partner and chief partnership and communications officer at Deerfield Management. “I think what this has enabled all of the hospital systems to do … is to come together very quickly and [recognize] their system was very stressed and couldn’t handle the capacity constraints coming in. It has broken down a lot of the different barriers.” 

In order to meet emergent capacity prompted by the coronavirus, while also meeting the needs of non-COVID-19 patients, hospitals and medical centers have been rethinking how they use space and technology. 

“We’ve seen a lot more facilities really leverage the space that they have constructed within their own networks,” EwingCole Project Manager Sophie Buttiens said. “I think we learned to ask the very simple question of: Are we being smart enough in the way that we plan our next step or our future buildings?” 

This has ushered in new potential for healthcare design, Buttiens said. Medical design professionals and medical centers have been looking at how to ensure flexible design that can be used for multiple types of care in new spaces, creating more universal rooms, potentially having a triage area before even entering the building or incorporating more technology — even virtual reality — into the design process, she said. 

“[There is] more of an appetite as a whole in the industry to make sure we are upgrading our systems to handle the future in a more prepared manner,” she said. 

In addition, there has been an increase in using technology to bring the hospital outside the physical building, Heidelberger said. 

“[The pandemic] has created an opportunity for the hospital and the home,” she said. “Reimbursement is now acceptable for telemedicine and telehealth and delivery actually within the home, where this wasn’t possible before.”

As the city and state eye an economic recovery, investment in healthcare infrastructure would be a smart move on a private and public level, said Elizabeth Velez, New York Building Congress chairperson and president of the Velez Organization. 

“We found that the hospital system has found that they have to really be nimble and quick to reimagine and repurpose their medical facilities while going through this crisis,” Velez said. “I think New York is ripe for significant investment [in] healthcare [infrastructure].” 

The public sector should offer incentives for this kind of private sector investment, she added. 

“Our infrastructure is strained and in dire need of some repair, so rising to meet this need with a comprehensive plan will get New Yorkers back to work safely, fueling jobs and adding billions of dollars to economic growth,” she said. “The reality is, given these economic times, it would really be wise to look at bringing in the private sector to help bring us along to help expedite that kind of investment right now.”

Published on

Nov 11, 2020 by New York Building Congress