AHRA: Radiology facility design offers unique challenge

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WASHINGTON, D.C.—Administrators should not lose control of a radiology facility design project by delegating it to others who either don’t have the expertise or don’t have the provider’s interest in mind, according to a presentation at the annual meeting of AHRA.

There are a number of facility design factors that can impact image quality, explained Robert Junk, AIA, president of RAD-Planning in Kansas City, Mo. Vibration from nearby machinery or even building sway can reduce quality, as can electromagnetic and radio frequency interference from power lines and cell towers. There are also specific considerations for structural capacity, construction materials and heating/air conditioning.

“I’m not saying that you all need to be the experts in this, but you need to make sure who’s doing it for you to understand these things,” said Junk, adding that at the end of the day, those designers will leave, but any problems will remain for the provider to deal with. This is why it’s important to work with architects who specialize specifically in radiology facility design, not just medical facility design.

Likewise, administrators can’t always trust the vendor to include every requirement in its product specifications, as they are ultimately interested in selling equipment. Junk said facility requirements supplied by vendors only account for about half of the needed elements, leaving out necessities such as changing rooms and staff areas.

A facility should be planned with the idea that no piece of equipment lasts forever, so construction should never simply settle for the minimum requirements. If a vendor specifies a ceiling height requirement, for example, that will be down to the inch, and if the ceiling is built right to that level, it may prevent the provider from being able to switch to a different vendor’s equipment in the future.

Providers will spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on a facility, but millions on scanners. Junk noted that administrators should understand that construction costs don’t measure up to equipment costs and plan accordingly.  “You want to make sure the room is designed to take that piece of equipment and take care of it.”