What I learned at the HospitalDesign360 conference


It was a challenging and inspiring wake-up call. I needed to come to the conference, but I might wait a little longer before I build for the first time.

I've always loved design, and I think that's the creative person in me who's always reassessing a home, a room or a setting to see what else is possible. That's probably why I'm so drawn to the idea of veterinary hospital design. I especially love the challenge of mixing functionality with creativity and aesthetics. Sometimes the lack of creativity and visually pleasing design in veterinary clinics makes me want to join a circus and leave it all behind.

So, when the Fetch dvm360 team gave me a complimentary registration to the HospitalDesign360 conference (the Veterinary Economics Hospital Design Conference at the time), I jumped at the chance to attend-and to share what it was like.

The first day? Plan!

Before you can even think about how much fun you're going to have designing your new hospital or remodeling your current one, the first day's speakers and activities hit you with the financials like a ton of bricks. In addition to sessions, the conference offers one-on-one financial consulting, and the expert gives you leads on who to talk to and how to plan for it, which is great-and scary at the same time.

I learned about loans

One gem I took from HospitalDesign360 is the difference between a regular business loan from a bank and a loan backed by the Small Business Association (SBA)-and how to figure out which works best for you. For instance, a SBA loan can be easier to obtain, especially if you don't have the most stellar credit. However, it comes with extra fees.

Also, I didn't know big banks like Bank of America and Wells Fargo have divisions specifically for medical professionals (like us veterinarians). I spoke with a loan officer from one of these banks in the exhibit hall who gave me a lot of good advice about how the bank funds a startup.

Getting exposure to these options at the conference-as exhibitors are focused on you, the current (or future) future practice owner-was very helpful.

When I've attended before, I always skipped this day. Not this time. This was a stark cold reminder that you can't skip steps. If you do, then your dream of owning, rebuilding or remodeling may never come true.

On the plus side, the speakers and consultants do break it down for you nicely and help you understand loans, the time it may take to turn a profit when you change locations or start up new, and other money matters.

The second day? Build!

This day is fun because speakers give you all the tips and tricks for hospital design you'd never think of yourself. They also give you heaps of helpful advice on what architects and contractors are supposed to do for you, as well as guidelines on building and zoning codes.

One of my favorite tips for thinking about the building process didn't come from a speaker. During Q&A, an attendee from Texas mentioned that he's planning to focus on team well-being in his hospital design. That was revolutionary thinking, from my perspective. Lenders likely don't care whether you incorporate break rooms and other team-focused spaces in a practice, and won't until we can prove that these spaces do, in fact, increase productivity and efficiency. Here's to hoping we get data on that soon!

You. Can. Do. This!

At Fetch dvm360 conference, we're the support system you need. With every conference this year, we intend to nurture your mind (meaning quality CE for days) while also encouraging you to take stock of your physical and emotional health. Register now.


The third day? Decorate!

This is the best part, in my opinion. It's the time you get to be the most creative. Why don't we get to have fun till the end? Perhaps there's a way to figure out how to make the planning and building more fun-oh, wait, there is: hiring others to worry about it for you with the buckets of money you have.

My personal takeaway

I realized very quickly-after one-on-one consulting sessions at the conference-that I don't have the financials at this point in my life to make it to the decorating part. The conference did me a big favor, though: It gave me the time and help to take a hard look at my financial situation and decide I can't afford to own today, but I can start planning for that future now.

Then I found myself the most important question of all: Why do I really want to build and own a hospital? If you can't answer that question, then you haven't thought about it long enough-and the conference might be just what you need to ask yourself tough questions with the right folks in the room to guide you.

Despite having my dreams dashed (ha!), I was grateful to have the opportunity to take a look at the reality of it all. Maybe I've put my dream on hold for the near future, but a girl can dream, can't she?

Frequent Fetch dvm360 speaker Dr. Hilal Dogan practices medicine in Denver, Colorado. She started the Veterinary Confessionals Project as a senior veterinary student at Massey University in New Zealand.

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