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October 9, 2012

How to measure hospital size: By square footage, not bed counts, say experts

Daily Briefing

Hospitals with similar bed counts used to be roughly comparable in size, but new departments, services, and building requirements mean that one 250-bed hospital may be nearly twice the size of another, two experts said at an expo last week.

Architect William Heun and "semi-retired" hospital executive Neal McKelvey  presented a report last week at the Healthcare Facilities Symposium and Expo.

The two men compared a 265-bed hospital that opened in 1980 (Mercy Hospital in Davenport, Iowa) with a 265-bed hospital that opened in 2010 (Meritus Medical Center in Hagerstown, Md.). Meritus was nearly 80% larger than Mercy, partly because it offers more space for staff and service lines. For example, Meritus included four cardio catheterization suites, while Mercy had none when it was built; the newer hospital also has three-inch thick exterior walls to meet energy conservation goals. In addition, Meritus includes larger patient rooms that meet the requirements under the Americans with Disabilities Act.

New hospitals must accommodate increased "outcome management" services, private offices for staff, increased storage space, and department conference rooms, Modern Healthcare reports.

In addition, hospitals are increasingly offering in-house education and training for "ongoing competency and skills enhancement" for staff which add square footage, but not patient services (Robeznieks, Modern Healthcare, 10/5 [subscription required]).

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