Boosting Patient and Staff Safety During Hospital Construction Projects

For any hospital construction project to be successful, it requires efficient processes and close collaboration between the construction project manager and medical staff to avoid any missteps in each other’s carefully crafted project and staffing plans.

Boosting Patient and Staff Safety During Hospital Construction Projects

Photo: Elnur, Adobe Stock

Most every time you hear about a new security vulnerability at a school or hospital campus, the initial reaction is to retrace how it happened and then put technology and processes in place to prevent it from reoccurring. It’s as if only new vulnerabilities pose the biggest threats.

Yet one fundamental process that represents a safety loophole is often overlooked: the process of properly managing construction contractors on campus. Here’s what happens and why it’s a risk to hospital employees, visitors, and patients.

The uptick in campus construction projects, which is expected to accelerate through at least 2026, is being driven by increased demand for healthcare, especially as the population ages. As hospitals struggle to recoup financial losses from the pandemic, they are accelerating construction to modernize facilities to attract patients. It’s not uncommon to have several construction projects underway at a single campus.

As more construction contractors and their subcontractors come on campus, there is a higher risk of not knowing exactly who is on the job site, where they’re located, and what projects they’re working on. Certainly, every worker on campus goes through a CORI check and hospitals continue to be diligent about credentialing. Still, there is an old-school construction process in place that creates a safety risk.

As one of the last industries to embrace digital transformation, many processes in construction have yet to enter the modern era. On the job site, the process of entering and exiting a job site usually involves workers signing in using a clipboard and sheet of paper. Campus security may issue badges but the information from the clipboard and the badge are not usually synced. This creates an information silo that limits the project manager’s visibility into all aspects of the job, therefore impacting how effectively they communicate with key stakeholders on campus.

For any hospital construction project to be successful, it requires efficient processes and close collaboration between the construction project manager and medical staff to avoid any missteps in each other’s carefully crafted project and staffing plans.

The paper-driven process also creates another problem: construction workers can inadvertently walk onto the job sites of different projects. The risks are heightened if a worker has limited experience when it comes to the nuances and rules of hospital construction.

For example, a construction project in the NICU may require specialized training and certifications to work with certain equipment. While the construction worker does not have bad intentions, it’s easy to get lost on campus. This challenge, when added to a lack of information about skills, certifications, and worker location, can have a ripple effect on patient care.

While investments in healthcare IT continue, with a recent report by Bain & Company and KLAS finding software is now a top five strategic priority for nearly 80% of healthcare provider organizations, this often doesn’t extend to the campus construction job site. After all, the responsibility for the construction crew remains with the general contractor. Providers can require vendors to comply with the use of newer technologies to better manage workers on site, yet a misconception about the cost and complexity often prevails.

3 Criteria for Choosing Technology to Close the Security Loophole

The challenge is in identifying the right technology to close this security loophole. While there’s no lack of technology options, many fall into the category of cost prohibitive, too complex for what’s really needed, inflexible, or too simple to resolve the issue.

To narrow the decision process, here are the bare minimum requirements for the technology:

  1. Easy to set up and start using. It shouldn’t require downloading an app or require workers to remember a password. Since nearly everybody uses a smartphone, a simple QR-code-based sign-in that syncs with the phone is a fast way to have workers check-in.
  2. Allows the general contractor to quickly adapt the check-in questions to comply with hospital requirements such as verifying the vaccination status of workers or other provider, state, or local guidelines.
  3. Connects with other technology that’s being used to support the construction project. For example, connecting the worker check-in reports against the project management software so hospital staff and contractor staff can have a realistic approach to scheduling employees for the least amount of patient disruption.

The opportunities in healthcare construction will continue for the foreseeable future. Along with every opportunity comes a certain amount of risk to both healthcare providers and their construction contractor vendors. To improve healthcare campus safety, the contractor sign-in process needs to be carefully reviewed, and in many cases, revamped. Along with checking on the dated sign-in process, providers may want to take a closer look at any paper-driven processes that are still being widely used.

David Ward is CEO of Safe Site Check In.

The views expressed by guest bloggers and contributors are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the views of, and should not be attributed to, Campus Safety.

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