Built for speed

By Mike Miliard
12:09 PM

Healthcare construction firm spurs new approaches to integrating hospitals with fast-changing technology

SAN BRUNO, CA – Deepak Aatresh co-founder of startup design/build firm Aditazz, came originally from the semiconductor industry, but since founding the company, he's been thinking a lot about architecture and construction.

Not long ago, Aatresh had a thought: "You know what? Computer chips and buildings are alike." Both are complex, three-dimensional structures, he says. Both are made using sand and metal. When designing a chip, the layout is called a "floorplan." And with "all the connections between air handlers and mechanical ducts and electrical switch gears and electrical sockets," the complex connectivity of a chip is similar to that of a building.

The healthcare and construction industries have some things in common: both have garnered criticism for lagging other industries when it comes to making optimal use of technology.

"We believe that nothing major has happened in the constructuion industry for many many years now," says Aatresh. "The construction industry really hasn't taken advantage of technology … it's a very uncoordinated, fragmented industry, and there's lots of waste – waste is estimated at 30 percent, and it's a trillion dollar industry."

When Aditazz started, its founders looked around for a sector to focus on – one that had "not seen the benefits of technology," says Aatresh. "Is there an industry that is really, really suffering because of the lack of innovation in construction? What stood out was healthcare."

Aditazz aims to bring "disruptive innovation" to hospitals and other healthcare facilities, says Aatresh. With a staff comprising computer scientists, architects, systems and structural engineers, modular construction professionals, medical planners and healthcare executives, the company's self-professed goal is nothing short of "revolutionizing the built-environments industry" through innovation and process optimization.

Recently, the firm beat out more than 100 other companies in Kaiser Permanente's "Small Hospital, Big Idea Competition."

(It tied for the top spot, alongside Mazzetti Nash Lipsey Burch, which partnered with Perkins+Will on a design concept that sought, in part, to "transform the process of receiving and giving care by re-conceptualizing people’s relationship to both technology and nature.")

Aditazz's idea focused on innovative spaces meant to inspire interpersonal connections, and incorporated civic spaces that "blur the boundaries" between community and hospital settings. Most notably, the concept centered on an IT platform that helps designers explore and play with many operational and space scenarios before settling on a design.

John Kouletsis, Kaiser Permanente’s vice president of facilities planning and one of the contest judges, spoke to Healthcare Finance News earlier this spring and explained the tie. Both teams’ approaches brought innovative thinking to "a very complex industry," he said. "It’s a very involved design process … and I think these two teams really so, so perfectly characterized the nature of the design process.”

Aditazz's design was "a perfect amalgamation of creativity and computation," added architect Felicia Cleper-Borkovi, project lead for the competition, in a statement.

Aatresh explains the technology platform's benefits to hospital design and construction. "You need a place for doctors and patients and staff to meet up and take care of patients' health: That's a physical space, a building," he says. "Then there's what goes into the building: information technology, medical technology and the skill sets of the people."

But if the construction industry has barely evolved in the past few decades, he says, IT and medical technology are moving at the pace of Moore's Law.

"Things change really fast nowadays," says Aatresh. Therefore, the layout and design of hospitals are often "out of whack" fast-evolving health IT systems they house.

With the platform concept, "if you inject an idea into the platform, it quickly tells you the consequences of implementing that idea – be it in terms of rearranging the emergency department to have a new flow, or bringing electronic self-registration at the front desk, or doctors using some electronic medical record system," he says. "We have the way to test it out through simulation and understand what the ramifications of changes are."

Right now, Aditazz is designing exclusively for healthcare. There are big challenges," says Aatresh. So much to do that we've got to focus."

Kaiser says that’s the appeal to its approach, as it looks to grow its network to smaller hospitals in semi-urban, and rural areas. And Aatresh is also looking beyond the U.S., ready to help "any global healthcare providers that need to expand rapidly," he says – especially in emerging markets such as India and China, where they're building a new hospital every four days" between them.

Investors seem to see a bright future. Amit Shah, a partner with Artiman Ventures, which funds Aditazz, says the firm shows potential "significant and positive impact on both the capital and operating budgets of healthcare providers, resulting in facilities that far exceed today's standards and as a result, improve patient care."

The hope for Aditazz is that literally building in these functional efficiencies will help contribute to the cause of bending the cost curve and improving patient care.

"Coming from Silicon Valley, we take a holistic approach to a building, rather than it being just a physical space," says Aatresh. "It's something that has to have functionality or an operational efficiency, much like a factory – or a microchip – where technology is tied into the way the building is put together."

Healthcare Finance News Associate Editor Stephanie Bouchard contributed to this story.