3 Strategies for Building Your Healthcare Design Team
Anyone who’s embarked on a major renovation or construction project knows they can be daunting, especially at the outset. These complex projects often involve large teams, substantial budgets, and multi-year timelines. Add the unique needs of the healthcare environment, and there’s a lot to consider.
How to ensure your project starts on a solid foundation? The key is building your design dream team: your partners in architecture, engineering, and construction who will be your most important allies for the entire process.
No one knows the importance of a great team better than our partners at Midwest Transplant Network (MTN). For their most recent renovation — a new Donor Care and Surgical Recovery Unit at their Westwood, Kansas headquarters — they took great care in selecting their first partner for the endeavor: the healthcare design team at Hoefer Welker.
This initial partnership set the tone for the entire project and led to several early decisions that streamlined the next two years of work. Most importantly, Hoefer Welker and Patrick McCurdy, principal on this project, recommended bringing on the whole construction, architecture and engineering team from the beginning. This simple yet effective move resulted in significant time and cost savings for the client, helping them avoid the delays and costly overages they’d experienced in previous projects.
Hoefer Welker’s focus on finding the best solution for the best value will help this project pay for itself within five years.
The proof of this partnership is in the result: Hoefer Welker’s focus on finding the best solution for the best value will help this project pay for itself within five years.
So how do you go about assembling your top-notch team? We asked MTN’s senior leaders to share their advice for other healthcare organizations looking to tackle a similar project.
1. Find the right cultural fit.
With so many qualified firms ready to pitch you a proposal, how do you narrow it down to find the right choice for your project and organization? According to Vice President and Chief Administrative Officer Tina Kirsch, the key is to find a firm that’s compatible with your company culture, not just immediate project goals.
“We knew we were going to spend a lot of time together over the next two years. We wanted to find a firm that understood our passion and mission and how important this project is, not just to our team, but to the community as a whole,” she says.
Vice President and COO Lori Markham and CFO Jim Boyd say the initial pitch is a huge part of finding the right fit. A good partner will be eager to get started without sacrificing the quality and thoroughness of those initial discussions. In the end, they say, it all comes down to listening.
“I was impressed with Hoefer Welker’s promptness, their desire to meet with me ASAP and understand MTN and our mission,” Markham says. “They truly listened to what we were seeking to do and came very prepared with their proposal.”
“I was impressed with Hoefer Welker’s promptness, their desire to meet with me ASAP and understand MTN and our mission. They truly listened to what we were seeking to do and came very prepared with their proposal.”
“HW’s presentation was the most professional of the bidders we considered,” Boyd says. “Their approach, discussion on how the project would flow, and recommended contractor and building engineering team was the best match for our needs and culture.”
As President and CEO Jan Finn notes, it’s also important for medical organizations to find a partner with meaningful healthcare experience.
“We felt a strong connection to their work style and reputation,” Finn says. “It was important for us to have a medical team on this project to ensure we were getting a design compliant with medical regulations, and that worked for us.”
A great cultural fit becomes even more critical when the unexpected occurs. Including taking an entire project online during a global pandemic, a process that Kirsch says “went shockingly well” thanks to the team’s chemistry.
2. Focus on the bigger “why.”
Related to finding the right cultural fit, Kirsch says, is selecting partners who understand and support your organization’s overall mission.
For MTN, this project was about more than simple efficiency — it was about saving lives, relieving overwhelmed healthcare facilities, and improving the experience of organ donors’ families. The new Donor Care and Surgical Recovery Unit will achieve all these goals by moving future organ and tissue donors out of crowded ICUs and into a donation-focused space.
“We didn’t start this project to save money,” Kirsch says. “This is absolutely a community resource … If we had it right now, it would be huge because hospitals are suffering so much [during the COVID-19 pandemic].”
Markham says she knew Hoefer Welker was the right fit by their eagerness to understand fully — and embrace — MTN’s mission.
“You could feel their passion for making donation and the donation experience the best it possibly could be … for our donors, their families and potential recipients awaiting these life-saving gifts,” Markham says
3. Bring the entire team on board as soon as possible.
Paramount in building your project team, Kirsch says, is assembling your entire project team at the outset.
Hoefer Welker brought construction firm McCownGordon, MEP firm BranchPattern, and civil/landscape consultant Bartlett & West on board from the beginning. This early teaming allowed MTN to get a complete cost breakdown and avoid the costly change orders — sometimes in the millions — they’d encountered on previous projects.
“Having everyone at the table from the beginning eliminated confusion and focused the entire team on addressing goals and challenges concurrently,” Boyd says. “Had we not started the project in this manner, the time required to address all issues could have required twice the time to complete and made for a frustrating experience.”
Moreover, the entire team was able to provide the MTN Governing Board with comprehensive design and cost options, allowing board members confidence to select the plan with the best value and outlook for the organization. And when the Board requested additional options, that pivot was all the easier because representatives from McCownGordon and BranchPattern were already in the room.
“Most important for me was to know we were heard, and our feedback was important.”
When gauging success with any design-build partner, Finn says it all comes down to the partnership.
“Most important for me was to know we were heard, and our feedback was important,” Finn says. “Hoefer Welker is always responsive to our questions, comments and objections. They deliver a quality design and push us to think creatively, while they guided us.”
Proof of a successful partnership can also come with a return on investment. In fall 2020, more than two years after partnering with Hoefer Welker, MTN broke ground on the 47,000-square-foot renovation and addition. The new Donor Care and Surgical Recovery Unit — made possible by the teamwork between Hoefer Welker, MTN, McCownGordon and BranchPattern — will allow MTN to more efficiently do what they do best: save lives and honor the gift of organ and tissue donation.
Principal | Healthcare Practice Leader
Patrick brings nearly 30 years of global healthcare expertise in leadership, project management and design excellence. He is passionate about continuous improvement and lean methodology.
About Midwest Transplant Network
Midwest Transplant Network has been connecting lives through organ donation since 1973. As the federally designated not-for-profit organ procurement organization (OPO) for Kansas and the western two-thirds of Missouri, Midwest Transplant Network provides services including organ procurement, surgical tissue and eye recovery, laboratory testing, and 24-hour rapid response for referrals from hospital partners. Midwest Transplant Network ranks in the top 10% in the country among OPOs, which reflects the organization’s quality, professionalism, and excellence in partnerships throughout the region