Technology Systems: 10 Things You Can Do to Ensure Your Healthcare Construction Project Goes Smoothly

By: Andy Parsons

By you, I mean the owners, owner’s reps, general contractors, sub-contractors or anyone else who is responsible for building or managing the construction of a healthcare facility. EDI provides various design and technology program management services, and we see the same mistakes dealing with technology systems made on a lot of projects. Taking the following items into consideration can help your project go more smoothly and save you a lot of headaches and money.

  1. Managers: Add the Owner’s IT staff labor time to the budget as a line item that must be “bought out”. Too often IT resources are looked at like free labor therefore they aren’t accounted for in the budget. On most projects, GCs and Owner’s Reps base their completion percentages based on how much a subcontractor has billed to date. If a contractor such as a drywaller is only billed out to 50% when they should be at 90% everyone can see there is an issue. If IT’s cost is not in the budget, no one will see that they have 90% of their hours to complete in the last 2 months of the project. This will put up a red flag that IT’s activities need to be scheduled and prioritized. Get an estimate of hours from the Owner’s IT staff, equate them to a cost and keep track of those costs to tell how much work there is to do.
  2. Owner: For the technology systems use vendors, consultants, or contract systems through the GC. IT is the only department of a hospital that takes on the design, physical work and contracting to complete a project. You will not see a situation where the plumper puts in the pipes, but the hospital facility department installs the toilet. The hospital’s resident electrician will not put together design drawings and contract out an electrician. So why is it so commonplace that the hospital’s IT department will design, procure and manage the installation of the technology systems? IT staff already have full-time jobs, yet it is considered normal to throw a large construction project on top of that for them to manage.
  3. Architect and Design Team: Design the furniture systems along with the normal design development and construction documents phase. This will allow detailed coordinate with power and data outlets and the IT devices that must sit on the furniture. On most projects there are only placeholders for furniture during design, then the furniture is fully designed and procured only after the outlets have been installed on walls. The furniture ends up changing significantly compared to the placeholders and power and data do not align properly. This means unsightly patch cords strung across offices, blocked outlets, conflicts with printers and upper cabinets, etc. Having furniture shop drawings early in design for coordination will avoid these issues.
  4. General Contractor: Complete the construction of the Telecom Rooms early in the project, even before everything else around it is completed. Schedule the flooring contractor early and include it in their bid to complete the TR flooring first so that racks can be set. Get the air handlers and chillers up and running as early as possible to cool the rooms. Install and commission the UPS early to get power to the network equipment. The completion dates for these rooms should not be scheduled along with the substantial completion date. The telecom rooms need to be ready in order to turn the network up before other critical systems can start. Almost every system relies on the network to activate, program, test and commission. These aren’t just IT systems; the building automation system, lighting controls, pneumatic tube, and other building systems rely on the network so it must be ready early.
  5. Contractors: Request network access and IP addresses well before you actually need it. IT needs time to evaluate each system riding their network for security and type of access. Then they need time to allocate IP addresses. Don’t wait until the day you need to turn on your system to request this access. Don’t assume there is network cabling where you need it. Unless these cables were requested, they will not be available. Communicate with IT early and often for any network needs.
  6. General Contractor: Secure your project site. IT will not deploy expensive equipment such as PCs, printers, and phones on a floor if it is not secure. This is directly correlated to #3. If the network is not up with the access control and video surveillance running, IT will not be comfortable with installing equipment. In some cases, equipment may be stolen and need to be replaced at the last minute, but may have lead times. If the schedule is tight, include some funds for security patrols until the security systems are operational.
  7. Managers: Schedule IT installation in correlation with other activities. IT devices sit on furniture. IT can’t deploy devices without furniture installed. Furniture is often scheduled to be installed late in the project. Consider using more casework for smaller areas between patient rooms. Casework is typically more expensive, but can be installed earlier in the schedule. Keeping the schedule and allowing IT to deploy earlier may make up for the higher costs.
  8. Managers: Don’t plan on having IT work 24/7. Just because they can and they always will, don’t have that expectation and plan around it. Typically, no other contractors will work around the clock, yet it is expected IT will be in the building at all hours. If contractors do after normal hours, it is separate shifts of workers. Hospital IT staff don’t have different shifts of people so they are forced to work constantly. Plan in appropriate time to complete their work and fix items. Have IT staff involved in OAC and scheduling meetings. If they need more time to complete work, give it to them just like you would for any other contractor.
  9. Owner: Perform day in the life exercises and allow staff to really use the spaces ahead of opening. End users will find more bugs in the systems in these days than the contractors can find in weeks. The systems are typically brand new to them; they will see things that are wrong that contractors have been blinded to. Running through simulations really puts these systems to the test. There are typically tours, scavenger hunts and other activities to get the users familiar with the building, but having them actually use the systems is very valuable to find issues. This must be scheduled into the project to ensure systems are ready for these activities.
  10. Owner: Assign responsibility for service providers and get them scheduled early. This can be a scope gap on projects. The Owner should be ordering Internet, phone, cellular and TV service from the various providers, but sometimes it is assumed a consultant or the GC is doing this. If forgotten you run the risk of not hitting opening dates. Cellular providers are notoriously slow in brining service to a building to connect to a DAS. It could take up to a year to get this source signal so plan accordingly. For Internet and TV, depending on the site it may take months to build out a connection along streets and through other properties to get to your building. This must be planned for. Get the contracts signed early and get the schedule established to get in the provider’s pipeline.

EDI can help you with all of these issues and more by engaging our technology program management services. Our experience and our drive will help make your healthcare projects successful.