3 Use Cases for Digital Codes and Standards in Healthcare Infrastructure

By Jonathan Hart, Technical Lead, Fire Protection Engineering, NFPA
Twitter: @NFPA

The healthcare sector has always existed at the intersection of innovation and complex problems. It’s an industry that relies on riding the newest waves of digital transformation to continue providing the best possible outcomes for patients and providers alike.

The same applies when it comes to healthcare infrastructure. As building and safety requirements for healthcare facilities become increasingly complicated and require deeper levels of expertise, it is more important than ever for stakeholders in the design and construction process to leverage digital innovations to drive safety, efficiency, and ultimately better patient care.

Between additional specialists, numerous authorities having jurisdiction (AHJs), and added health and ergonomic considerations, healthcare infrastructure has considerably more regulations and nuances than other sectors. The design and construction process requires varying professionals with healthcare-specific expertise, and collaboration between all involved parties is critical.

Luckily, the digitization of fire and life safety codes is helping to promote real-time collaboration. Online codes and standards platforms can ensure all stakeholders are working on the same set of criteria from the earliest possible touchpoint to drive compliance and top-notch patient care. How exactly? Below are three use cases within healthcare infrastructure for emerging digital codes and standards hubs.

1. Bringing Codes to Life with Visual Elements and Situational Navigation

Interactive visual elements bring digital codes and standards to life. With new technology, healthcare design and construction teams can now look at interactive renderings of patient corridors, nurses’ stations, operating rooms, medical gas zone valves, patient rooms, etc., hover over elements of the room, and see the specific code requirements for that element. In a patient room visualization, for example, a user can hover over privacy curtains and learn about considerations from a fire and life safety perspective across several codes and standards (e.g., requirements to ensure privacy curtain placement doesn’t interfere with the sprinkler system).

Digital situational navigation not only adds a visual aspect and a new way to ingest information, but also provides building teams with a centralized list of factors to consider when working on a specific element of a facility. This can help ensure that proper requirements are adhered to in the earliest stages of the design and construction process.

2. Creating a Knowledge Base to Preserve Healthcare-Specific Expertise

Veterans in healthcare infrastructure know it takes years of hands-on experience to master the ins-and-outs of the field. But how can they streamline the learning curve for the next generations?

There’s a huge opportunity for digitized codes and standards to help democratize veteran knowledge and disseminate it to new employees. Veteran designers can build up notes from experience on past projects, bookmark those notes, and create collections for other team members to study. This way, specific learnings around infection control or patient-centered room design can be shared with the wider team so they are better prepared for the next project. This can help to streamline training and onboarding, avoid repeating past mistakes, and complete projects more efficiently. Additionally, creating a digital history ensures that expertise doesn’t disappear from an organization when its most experienced employees leave or retire.

3. Centralizing Notes to Document AHJ Approvals and Equivalencies

The healthcare sector has more authorities having jurisdiction (AHJs) than nearly any other industry. There is additional involvement from the State Department of Health, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), different accreditation organizations, and more. Each of these parties might have different code requirements and interpretations, and it’s not uncommon for there to be equivalencies and allowances by an AHJ to use alternative means to meet a specific code or standard.

With so many AHJs involved, it is critical that design and construction teams can capture equivalencies, allowances, approvals and other notes in an organized, well-documented manner that provides visibility to all relevant stakeholders. Digital hubs today are enabling teams to add searchable notes—such as “XYZ was approved by local fire marshal on this date”—alongside sections of code to document these approvals and equivalencies.

This can be especially helpful during inspections if teams need to provide evidence on how certain building aspects meet the needed code requirements. Digitizing this process helps reduce miscommunication, resolve disputes faster and complete projects quicker while ensuring all building and life safety aspects are accurate and up to code.

Adopting Digital Tools Leads to Better Patient Outcomes

As the healthcare sector continues to bounce back from the pandemic, digital tools are helping teams better collaborate, document information, visualize requirements, and retain veteran expertise. With the help of these tools, all stakeholders can work more efficiently to ensure new healthcare infrastructure is safe, durable, and built to provide the highest level of care. After all, every minute not spent on compliance can be put back into patient care and driving better health outcomes.