An update on Health Department Facilities Plan Review improvements

Posted on: 11/14/16

Provided by the Oklahoma State Department of Health

Increasing the speed of health care construction projects from “concept to market” has been the focus of a collaborative effort to make health department reviews of design and construction plans more efficient and timely.

The Oklahoma State Department of Health, the Oklahoma Hospital Association, and experts in architecture, engineering, law and project management are working to reduce wasted time in the plan review process. The collaborative group brings together the interests of hospitals, ambulatory surgical centers, nursing facilities, assisted living centers and public health to ensure the health and safety of Oklahomans while reducing costs to health care providers and state government.

Beginning in April 2015, the group developed a flow chart covering the process for approving functional programs, stage one design plans, stage two construction plans and final occupancies. The health department developed new data systems to track the time required at each step in the process. Based on early data, the collaborative identified functional programs as a key contributor to delays for hospitals and ambulatory surgical centers. From April 2015 to June 2015, only 23 percent of functional programs were approved on the first submittal and some were rejected as many as five times. Functional programs and stage one plans were reviewed consecutively, so stage one plans stalled while awaiting approval of functional programs.

The group identified and tested two solutions to expedite functional program reviews:
  • Offer electronic fillable templates to guide applicants through the functional program requirements, give them ideas for complete responses and advise about common mistakes; and
  • Allow concurrent submittals and reviews of functional programs and stage one plans.
A pilot of the templates showed positive results in September 2015. In October 2015, the group agreed to implement concurrent submittals of functional programs and stage one plans. Through September 2016, 30 percent of functional programs were submitted on the templates, with average processing times 19 days less than programs not submitted on templates. Concurrent submittals of functional programs and stage one plans occurred for 73 percent of projects, with average processing times 14 days less than programs and plans submitted separately. Denials of functional programs have been virtually eliminated, and processing times for approvals remained below an average of 40 days from February 2016 to September 2016.

The templates may be helpful especially for simple projects and for hospitals, ambulatory surgical centers and nursing facilities lacking experience in preparing functional programs. Two other recommendations from the collaborative group are:
  • Facilities comfortable with their own current processes or those proposing complex projects covering multiple areas should consider using the templates as checklists to write a unified functional program; and
  • Be sure to use a multidisciplinary team to develop the functional program.  

To view the functional program templates and answers to frequently asked questions, visit the Oklahoma State Department of Health.

For more information, contact the OSDH at

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