Facilities Planning Leadership Driven by Data and Experience: Meet Kim Barnes

Kim Barnes MBA, Senior Director at Jensen Partners, is a healthcare industry leader with 25+ years of experience culminating in executive hospital leadership. Kim provides healthcare master planning direction and leadership through data-driven feasibility analyses, site selection, space programming, design development, equipment planning, and more. We sat down with Kim to learn more about perspectives in facilities planning, pandemic response, and the future of our industry.

Kim, you have an MBA in Healthcare Administration and studied Community Health before that. Would you please share with us your career journey that led you to Jensen Partners?

My first job after business school was in the strategic planning department of a hospital. I quickly found out how much I enjoyed strategy, because it enabled me to work with people in departments throughout the hospitals and truly make a difference moving the organization forward. I progressively got more responsibility in strategic planning roles and spent most of my career at Lourdes Health System in southern New Jersey. By the time I left Lourdes I was Chief Strategy Officer, overseeing a variety of complementary areas such as marketing, communications, and fundraising. I was always very intricately involved in all aspects of facilities planning from the very early stages of the financial feasibility study. I have enjoyed the facilities projects so much because of how tangible and impactful they are for our patient population.

In 2015 at Lourdes, we were looking for a firm to do our facility master plan, initially reviewing only local companies in the Philadelphia area. Our then parent company invited us to look at firms across the nation. We brought in Jensen Partners, and during the interviews, we all looked at each other as if we already knew we would hire them. Our team was used to debating every decision, yet this was a clear one. While initially we were a little worried about using a firm from outside of our market, hiring Jensen Partners ended up being a great decision. They brought a fresh perspective and experience from working with hospitals nationwide. Throughout our work, I developed a great working relationship primarily with Sarah, Frances and Tom.

I worked very closely with the Jensen Partners team on the master plan for a whole campus redesign for one of our hospitals and a comprehensive ambulatory care analysis. Sometime later, I got an offer to work with the team on various projects and have been working on several facilities planning projects, as well as COVID response planning.

Great. What are some new developments in facilities planning you are noticing in your work with clients since the pandemic has started?

The most critical piece is utilization of space: looking at facilities and divesting from poor performing ones, perhaps shrinking your footprint, but with the goal of growing as a result. We help our clients utilize their facilities more fully, and I see this as the most significant direction for the future. Prior to the pandemic, there was greater interest in building more and more sites in the community, and now we see a necessary shift toward consolidation. This is the sensible path especially during this pandemic. For instance, you don’t want to be cleaning physicians’ offices in tens of different sites and deal with complex patient traffic issues at so many locations. The pandemic will accelerate a trend Jensen Partners had identified prior to this year. Along with that, the implications of telehealth will continue to grow, which we factor into facilities planning and are very thoughtful about.

Fascinating. You have also done some work with philanthropy and government relations while in healthcare leadership. Would you share a bit more about that?

When planning a large expansion of our hospital with our team, I knew the project inside out and had done a lot of the space planning. That knowledge gave me the tools to fundraise for the project, because I could effectively tell the story of what we were trying to accomplish. Fundraising for one project worked out well and led to developing a case for further engagement with our donors who wanted to support the building. Government relations followed along that line; I became engaged with regulatory aspects of the facilities process.

That’s an exciting journey. What do you see as an important issue healthcare leaders should be aware of in the future?

I have always been cognizant of overspending in healthcare and thus worked in streamlining processes. Saving expenses for not only a system, but also the consumer is very important. Building supporting partnerships to make that happen is key. For instance, I was once working on a partnership of hospital systems in a state to create a centralized, dedicated emergency department for patients with mental illness. Different systems were duplicating a lot of staff at different locations, and I saw the value in creating a center with robust staff who had the right training for mental health emergencies. Unfortunately, it is difficult to fully respect the dignity of mental health patients in distributed ER departments, because dedicated treatment is very important. Healthcare leadership attentive to the future of care needs to have a strategy that is trying not to duplicate services and instead implement approaches that are in tune with the unique patient needs of every type of patient.

I also have this perspective at the core of my work approach; serving underserved patients and communities has been very important to me. I’m proud to have worked for organizations that have a special place in their hearts for people that others might not be as worried about, and I’m very happy to be part of the Jensen Partners team that shares this value.

Lastly, What would your advice be to those looking to develop their careers in healthcare administration and facilities planning?

The main skill set that helped me when building my career was having a strong data analytics background. When I first started as the Assistant Director of Planning, I knew the analytics inside and out, from utilization of hospital services to occupancy rates, bed benchmarks, and more. That served me very well as I began taking more responsibility for planning buildings. Knowing the data and utilizing it in a meaningful way gave me a strong seat at the table. I was able to contribute through presenting market share information, growth projections, and the big picture through very specific data. This skill set ended up being important for facilities planning, because knowledge from feasibility assessments and others impact the outcome of this work significantly.

Your commitment to improving healthcare for all comes through in your work, and we appreciate your time sharing these insights with our community, Kim.