How has the pandemic changed or accelerated construction projects in the healthcare sector?
Pacini: The pandemic has underscored the importance of essential construction projects. At first, all construction was stopped, even critical projects. This abrupt shutdown gave healthcare developers time to regroup and reposition themselves for a post-pandemic world. As soon as projects were given the green light, the need to deliver was immediate. The current backlog of projects continues to cause scheduling issues in our sector.
The pandemic has also fundamentally changed how immediate care facilities operate. While operational changes (like waiting in your car to be called for your appointment) may be temporary, many changes can become the new norm. HVAC design – how air enters and exits the facility, how it is cleaned and recirculated – is extremely important. We see changes like this as positive outcomes of the pandemic that will keep people healthier and prevent the spread of disease.
How has hospital design changed over the past decade and what impact does this have on constructability, delivery and/or schedules?
Pacini: The size of the buildings has increased considerably. A 40,000 square foot MOB was once large and today a typical MOB averages between 60,000 and 75,000 square feet. What is housed in the building has also changed – more departments like immediate care, physiotherapy, women’s services, imaging, laboratory services and cancer care are all under one roof. Buildings are also aesthetically more pleasing. Architects are designing spaces with more glass, more natural light, and more emphasis on creature comforts for patients and staff. We even see an infusion of regional flair – with nods to local history or native flora and fauna.
What remains unchanged is the increased focus on speed to market. Health is in a major turf war and the speed to market is tremendous. Prefabrication and modular construction also continue to gain momentum. We build components – headwalls, MEP systems, doors and hardware – offsite, which improves quality, reduces jobsite congestion and saves time. Technology powers it all. Field staff are equipped with iPads and can immediately send updates to all trades. No one carries the wrong set of designs.
Sustainability has taken center stage in other verticals. What green building initiatives do you see in the healthcare sector?
Pacini: Healthcare construction has always had high standards for sustainability, especially in new construction hospitals and medical campuses. Recently, more and more MOBs are pursuing sustainable initiatives with the aim of reducing their energy consumption. As energy prices continue to rise and the grid in many parts of the country becomes increasingly strained, we plan to integrate renewable energy systems into more projects, which will help ensure resilience and redundancy.
What is the impact of the supply chain on healthcare projects and what is being done to overcome current challenges?
It is essential to know early in the process what the pain points will be. Project teams need to identify where everything is coming from and when it will be delivered – from rooftop units and generators to door frames and plumbing fixtures. Right now, the biggest volatility is in critical infrastructure equipment where delays can really impact the schedule. With 45 years of relationships, we have been able to rely on alternative manufacturers to meet deadlines.
Beyond materials and goods, the construction industry is also managing unprecedented shortages of skilled labour. Much like other industries – restaurants, retail and hospitality – employee shortages have had an impact. We apply the same proactive approach we use to overcome supply chain challenges to our people pipeline. We review staffing forecasts well in advance of employment starts, seek to grow our current squad with mentoring and training opportunities, and keep an eye out for the right players to add to the squad, whether the need is now or in the future. a near future.
What impact has the COVID-19 pandemic had on how healthcare professionals (pharmacists, providers, etc.) serve patients?
Brad Ulrich: The pandemic has caused a shift in how consumers view their pharmacists and the role they play in their health. Pharmacists were often seen as the primary resource for vaccination information and COVID prevention. This has strengthened the relationship consumers have with their local Walgreens pharmacists and has now established an expectation for pharmacists to play an even greater role in their healthcare services.
Today, Walgreens is laying the foundation for new areas of pharmaceutical care, including screening and treating common illnesses, providing comprehensive care for chronic conditions such as diabetes and asthma, addressing barriers to adherence and support for health equity. We believe that enabling our pharmacy professionals to focus on the activities for which they are licensed, explore new career opportunities, and provide expanded patient care not only helps us better serve our communities, but enables also more fulfilling and goal-oriented work for our team members. . Do pharmacies/pharmacists have the opportunity to continue to play a greater role in the health care of their patients, especially in the areas of chronic disease management and vaccination?
Ulrich: There is a huge opportunity for pharmacists to play an even greater role in the lives of patients. Last year, 253 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines were administered by pharmacies, and we’ve seen more patients turn to their local pharmacists for help understanding and managing their chronic conditions. We leverage technology and tools to create efficiencies that allow our pharmacists to focus on delivering more clinical services, drive better medication adherence, and build more meaningful connections with patients and providers. In states where permitted, we are piloting programs that include HIV testing and PReP prescription, upper respiratory testing and treatment, and support programs for patients with asthma and COPD.
What kinds of efforts are you putting in place to recruit and retain staff with the current national labor shortage?
Ulrich: The US healthcare system is under strain, facing a shortage of primary care physicians, an aging population, unequal access to care and rising costs. With the clinical expertise, accessibility, and pharmacists’ intimate knowledge of the communities they serve, pharmacists can play an important role in closing gaps in care, reducing costs, and improving patient outcomes. . At Walgreens, we’re expanding the ability of pharmacists to practice skills that build on why they went to a pharmacy in the first place. We enable greater patient engagement and care and improve inventory management to enhance the customer experience while expanding our pool of future community leaders within the global patient care team.