Civilian Hospitals Increasingly Taking Tips From Military Projects On Equipment Planning

By Coker Barton, Senior Vice President & National Healthcare Team Leader

In the delivery of healthcare projects across the country, we are seeing increased inclusion of Initial Outfitting and Transition (IO&T) companies, especially on larger projects. IO&T is defined as “a total turn-key solution and project support for the equipping and transitioning of staff and patients associated with new and renovated hospital and healthcare facility construction projects”. The IO&T Program “provides transition support with services that can provide everything needed to meet an owner’s expectations on the first patient day – it starts with medical equipment planning and, just as important, the complete clinical operation planning to ensure smooth processes to support the patients and their healthcare services delivery”.

Used primarily on military projects, IO&T is gaining popularity in the private sector because owners believe they can save money and time by putting several services now provided by different companies under one resource, including equipment planning and procurement, IT systems planning and procurement, FF&E planning & procurement, scheduling, move management, and post occupancy evaluation.

While the idea sounds enticing, IO&T is not exactly a simple plug-and-play solution. The ability to extract maximum value from one of these consultants is dependent on a couple of factors.

First, roles must be very clear. Some IO&T providers offer services that overlap – and potentially conflict – with those of program managers and even construction managers. While it is an owner’s prerogative to assign roles and structure a team as they see fit, lack of clarity for team members or having one task performed by more than one player can be confusing. It can also cost unnecessary money because owners pay twice for the same service. In extreme cases, projects could potentially be delayed by the confusion and conflict caused by unclear roles, something that hurts everyone involved, owner included.

Second, IO&T consultants should be selected and integrated into the team as early as possible. Equipment, security and IT planning for healthcare facilities is complex, and the choices made have a very direct impact on facility design. It’s best to make as many of those decisions in schematic design or design development to reduce the need for substantial redesign. A collaborative team effort, where the equipment planner is at the table from the beginning, makes the design process smoother for everyone and avoids the potentially negative impacts of slow or late equipment decisions.

Equipment, security and IT planning is a big deal for healthcare projects, and it needs ample and focused attention during the design process. Procurement, installation and testing are also critical. IO&T consultants can help with those key issues, especially for large, complex projects. Healthcare owners should be smart buyers: Be clear for yourself about your needs and the challenges of your particular project, determine if an IO&T consultant is a good fit, allocate responsibilities effectively, and pick the best partners you can find as early as possible. Finally, establish a collaborative team environment where all team members stay focused on the project.