Main Line Health System: JoAnn Magnatta, SVP, Facilities Design and Construction

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In today’s uncertain healthcare market, facilities design faces some daunting criteria — to be state-of-the-art, flexible, environmentally friendly, efficient, and perhaps most important, affordable. These factors present unique challenges for hospitals and health systems, many with aging facilities that are looking to meet the high standards and growing needs of the baby-boomer generation.

“I have been in the facilities design and construction field for 27 years, and I believe that we are in the middle of the most challenging times for both the healthcare and construction industries,” said JoAnn Magnatta, senior vice president of facilities design and construction at Main Line Health. “It is exciting and challenging at the same time.   We have to work harder than ever to produce buildings and facilities that will meet the needs of healthcare in the future at a reasonable cost.”

Paoli Hospital, part of Main Line Health in suburban Philadelphia, Pa., has approximately 200 beds. The hospital recently completed a large capital project. The hospital built a $144-million, 259,000 square-foot pavilion, which included a parking garage and new patient tower. This patient tower opened in July 2009. Magnatta and her team are applying lessons learned from that project to a current $530 million expansion project at Lankenau Medical Center, an acute-care hospital within the Main Line Health System.

The new Lankenau Medical Center will house a 1300-car parking garage, a new patient tower with all private beds, cardiology services and a new diagnostic and treatment area. The project also includes a new central utility plant, upgrades to the cancer center and upgrades to the research facility.

Applying evidence-based design and sustainability in future projects

Magnatta said one integral piece to the success of large capital projects is to assemble a team at the beginning. She assembles a team of individuals from within the Hospital System, including the Hospital president, operations vice presidents, materiel management, etc.,  as well as architects, construction representatives and others to ensure everyone has input and all questions can be answered from the outset.

“It is important to do all your homework before you take a project forward,” she said. “We talk to hospital presidents and operating vice presidents about their needs and put together a return on investment analysis. Then, we always make sure we have the right team in place. Having representatives from all areas of the project allows us to understand equipment needs, what new technologies may be on the horizon, and plan flexibility into the project.”

Magnatta said the team is in place for the Lankenau Project, scheduled to open within the next two years. The project will apply many evidence-based design practices, especially those learned through the Paoli Pavilion.

The Paoli Pavilion was a Pebble Project, one of only 50 in the nation. The Pebble Project is a research effort to discover and share best practices in healthcare facility design. One application of this was in patient-room design. Magnatta said before building rooms in the Pavilion, the design team worked with staff and end users to develop mock-up rooms.

“We replicated a patient room down to the spigots used and invited physicians, nurses and other users to critique them,” she said.

Paoli is still measuring the outcomes from this, but one result seen so far is a reduction in patient falls. The new room design incorporated hand rails throughout, especially from the bed to the bathroom.

The rooms feature significant natural light and are designed to be safe, spacious and great healing environments. These features will carry over into the new patient rooms at the Lankenau facility.

In addition, the Paoli Pavilion incorporated green elements that will also be applied in future design projects. Magnatta said sustainability is an important part of construction projects, and the Lankenau project is aiming for LEED gold certification.

“We have made a commitment to ourselves and the community that we will do everything in our power to build sustainable buildings and incorporate as many LEED elements as possible,” she said.

Some buildings in the Main Line Health System have already achieved gold certification.

Meeting the needs of the future

Main Line Health continues to look for ways to meet the needs of today’s challenging healthcare market. As with many health systems, Main Line Health has to evaluate capital investments in light of the aging infrastructures of many facilities. The need to upgrade is always being weighed against the need to expand programs or add new services.

Magnatta said that having a strong team in place on any project and only going forward with projects for which your team is 100 percent on board is the best chance for success.

“Take your time to make sure your planning is accurate. Understand the market, and never assume you know it all. Ask questions of your team and listen carefully to the answers.”

-by Patricia Chaney

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