January / February 2016
Leverage a Little and Gain Everything the World of Imaging Has to Offer.
by Robert Junk, AIA, Principal, RAD-Planning
Tobias Gilk, Principal, RAD-Planning

Archimedes, the renowned mathematician / philosopher of ancient Greece, once said “give me a place to stand and with a lever I will move the whole world.” The basic idea is that a lever amplifies the strength of a single person, allowing them to achieve far more than they would without it. This same principle of finding ways of amplifying value applies elsewhere, including imaging and therapy design and construction projects.

Even when patient demand grows and grows, many facilities are demanding smarter, more flexible and cost-efficient ways to build and maintain their radiology facilities.  But when challenged to ‘do more with less,’ where do you start? What levers can you find to amplify the value of the expanded or updated radiology services that your patients need?

If there is money to be saved, time to be spared, and mistakes to be avoided, it makes sense to undertake these efforts as early in a project as possible. Let’s take a look at a hypothetical MRI project: siting a new 3.0T scanner.

Too often we judge an equipment-driven project on the piece of equipment, and not the clinical or operational outcomes it is intended to produce. Thought of smartly, however, a MRI project isn’t a MRI project, it’s a project to provide imaging services to direct therapy for a growing neurology practice. Healthcare providers ultimately don’t measure the success of the MRI project by the presence of a MRI scanner. In this instance simply ‘showing up’ is not half the battle… it’s barely the beginning.

This approach prioritizes lifecycle costs over short-term expenses, which makes tremendous sense when you compare the actual value of the clinical services to the cost of the imaging equipment, or the cost of construction services, or the cost of design consultant services. But the design consultant services – from selecting the best location for your MRI suite, to the design of it, to the planned upgrading or even decommissioning of the scanner many years down the road – play a disproportionate role in the value that a healthcare provider will get from their investment. In short, design expertise is your lever: that which amplifies the value of your imaging capital projects.

When you look at how much project delays, or change-orders, or early equipment replacements cost, the front-end value of design decisions becomes evident. Design expertise helps facilities leverage imaging capital projects to maximize the effects of each investment dollar and achieve unimagined efficiencies. The compounded benefits of smart design (e.g. reduced construction time / costs, extended equipment life-cycle) are so substantial that I’m about to propose to you something that is downright heretical in the face of belt-tightening trends for capital projects… Don’t worry about consultant (architect and engineer) fees, worry about the value they bring!

Returning to our hypothetical MRI suite, the value of 10 years of clinical service is going to be on the order of 5 times the cost of the equipment. The cost of the equipment is going to be on the order of 5 times the construction contractor’s cost to build a single MRI suite. The cost to build a single MRI suite will be on the order of 5 times the cost to hire an expert design professional. The math shows us that the design professional’s fees is then less than 1% of the value of that MRI’s service life. And yet, the consultant designer has a disproportionate effect on the clinical service’s value.

In our line of work, we see many, many radiology suite designs. We have repeatedly seen poor equipment planning, siting, and design decisions that have cut projected equipment life in half. We have seen suites poorly designed, such that they inhibited effective patient care or throughput (reducing the lifetime value of the equipment). We have seen existing suites that needed to be torn out to accommodate the next piece of equipment, because the original build-out was only concerned with the bare minimum siting requirements of the initial equipment purchase. We have seen sites struggle to add clinical capabilities because flexibility wasn’t designed into their suite. And we have even seen sites install equipment that turned out to be completely inoperative due to problems with the building and buildout. Executed poorly, that comparatively tiny fractional value of the MRI clinical service – professional consultant design services – can wind up slashing 20%, 30%, even 50% of the lifetime value of the service it’s intended to support. This essentially takes money out of the pocket of the clinical provider and restricts clinical services to patients.

Conversely, expert designs can add substantial value to a radiology project. Place the imaging suite where it can be expanded to accommodate anticipated growth, and the annuity of providing continuous patient care is extended. Design the suite to support the most efficient patient flow, and perhaps you can wind up putting off adding the 2nd (or 3rd, or 4th) scanner for a year or two because the original service is more effectively scalable. Site the scanner where environmental factors provide less interference and the diagnostic / image quality will remain competitive for additional years, reducing the number of replacements or upgrades that the provider must pay for. Each of these benefits can add years of useful life to an imaging suite, and thousands of additional patients getting service.

Radiology Expert Value

Whether your goals are to maximize patient service to your beneficiary population, or to extend the life-cycle of your equipment, or to maximize exam numbers for reimbursement, or to reduce the frequency of imaging equipment upgrades / replacements, or maximize clinical capabilities, or to shave months off of the downtime that will come when the inevitable equipment replacement finally does come due, expert radiology design services are essential elements to helping you meet your goals.

Archimedes wanted a lever to lift the world. You should want a lever to multiply the value of your imaging capital projects. That lever is imaging design expertise, and what it can bring you is orders of magnitude more than what it costs.

 

RADIOLOGY Planning, our principals and staff, are committed to helping our clients and partners leverage the greatest potential value from their imaging and therapy resources.

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January / February

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