Healthcare delivery systems in the US continue to face an uncertain future. This is the result of rapidly evolving technology used in the practice of medicine, continued exploration of new organizational structures to provide care and manage health, as well as the seemingly endless debate regarding the future of the Affordable Care Act. How do you plan for needed facility construction or renovation in the face of all this uncertainty?
1 – Identify as many future scenarios as you can.
In the abstract, identify as many future scenarios as you can in which the new facility investment must succeed. For example, are there conceivable variations in future patient demographics, local employment, competitors, partners, government policies, reimbursement, population health, or anything else that would affect how your organization delivers healthcare to the community you serve? The answer is almost always yes, so Step 1 is to identify these potential future scenarios and list them.
2 – Design for flexibility and evaluate against multiple scenarios.
Even though you have now identified a number of possible futures, chances are there is one that you feel is most likely to occur. It’s important to resist the temptation to design your new or renovated facilities only to meet the needs of this particular scenario. If you believe a particular scenario is 80% likely to occur, then it stands to reason you are taking a 20% chance that the new facility will need to function in a different environment. In that case, it may not be successful and that is simply unnecessary risk. The best way to increase the odds of success is to place your design solutions into multiple scenarios and evaluate how well they will serve the required purpose in each of those cases.
3 – Select the most robust design solution.
After evaluating your design solutions against multiple future scenarios, select the one that will be successful in as many of those futures as possible. In this way, you can plan for what you believe will happen, while guarding against failure that could result from different circumstances. Using this mindset is perhaps the best way to mitigate risk in a time of uncertainty while continuing to move forward. After all, standing still in uncertain times is more likely to be a self-defeating strategy than a strategy based on thorough scenario planning.