by Paul Whitson
Senior Vice President. Regional Healthcare Leader
Healthcare delivery is constantly changing as new research, innovative technology and educational methodologies challenge how medicine is practiced. Fresh thinking, tools and talent are just part of the equation for a healthier tomorrow. The design and operation of healthcare facilities must also enhance the human experience and accommodate the ever-changing needs of physicians, staff and patients.
This article first appeared in Medical Construction & Design.
Putting the Patient First
The Lauritzen Outpatient Center in Omaha, Nebraska, opened last year as a new leader in patient-centric care. HOK led the overall programming for the center and guided the medical planning and layout of the clinical spaces. RDG provided architectural, interior design and medical documentation.
Planned and design with the patient experience as a guiding principle, the hospital’s patient amenities are located throughout the facility. These include hospitality-style seating, grab-and-go food service and phone chargers in waiting areas. But perhaps the most valuable amenity of this 170,000-sq.-ft. facility is more subtle: the intuitive wayfinding cues it provides for patients.
An orthopedic clinic, radiology department, outpatient pharmacy and rehabilitation gym are co-located on the first floor, allowing patients to make multiple appointments during the course of one visit. These departments were previously located on two separate floors. To streamline the experience and provide less stress, patients now only need to check in once at the traditional reception desk or a self-service kiosks.
The design also relieves stress in how it structures the patient and staff flow and organizes exam rooms. Patients enter through public-facing hallways with reduced traffic mitigated by the displacement of staff in designated work areas. Staff enter through the rear from the work areas, creating a streamlined patient and staff flow. Rooms are arranged in pods surrounding common staff work areas.
Designed with LEAN principles to improve efficiency and reduce costs, patient rooms are outfitted with key amenities and medical equipment arranged in the exact same way with interchangeable parts. This allows rooms to have flexibility and serve changing patient needs while providing stability to improve medical care.
HOK’s team planned the new Duke Eye Center in Durham, North Carolina, with a strong focus on the patient. Their needs were considered at every step of the design process for this 127,000-sq.-ft. facility.
For individuals with vision problems, spaces with sharp edges and bold lines can be difficult to navigate. In response, the Duke Eye Center includes many round-edged walls and soft surfaces that help patients travel through the facility. Strategically placed and sized windows allow patients with varying levels of light sensitivity to still experience a connection to the outdoors while receiving treatment. Future phases are planned to include communal garden areas that accentuate textural and sensory stimuli.
To expedite wait times, the Duke Eye Center features pre-arrival and kiosk check-in options. Additional features include living room-styled waiting rooms for families to relax, color-coded wayfinding for easy navigation and a layout that limits the need for patients to move through the building.
Considering the Community
To better serve patients, healthcare providers have begun to engage more with the community to locate facilities in more appropriate settings for acuity and cost. Nebraska Medicine, for example, developed a strategy to provide ambulatory services outside of the main campus’s acute care environment. Ambulatory services are now offered at Village Pointe, a suburban site, and at the Lauritzen Outpatient Center adjacent to the main hospital campus.
With the addition of the Lauritzen Outpatient Center, residents now have access to the best services of the academic health center in a convenient, accessible setting. This move to community-based ambulatory care represents a huge shift within the healthcare industry. Urban planners can help organizations strategically place outpatient facilities on sites that are easily accessible for more people and that reduce the commute for many seeking treatment. Instead of patients having to travel to a central hospital or medical facility for both inpatient and outpatient procedures and appointments, they can visit several regionally located outpatient facilities. This reduces traffic to other facilities and expedites treatment for patients.
In the past, equipment for tests and procedures like chemotherapy and radiation needed to be housed at a hospital. With the latest advances in technologies, these treatments have become increasingly mobile, offering more flexibility to patients.
Where the Pros Go
Today’s professional athletes are attuned to the idea that holistic care off the field is critical for them to perform at the highest levels on the field. Nutrition, training and treatment are important considerations for optimizing athletic performance. With access to the best sports medicine, the world’s most elite athletes have forged a more well-rounded approach to fitness that is transforming how we think about preventative and rehabilitative medicine.
The Emory Sports Medicine Complex in Brookhaven, Georgia, has taken that approach with a new facility to serve both professional athletes and members of the community. This 90,000-sq.-ft. complex houses the training facility for the NBA’s Atlanta Hawks as well as the Emory Health Sports Medicine practice.
For the Hawks, two full basketball courts, a weight room, a lap pool, cryotherapy chambers and recovery suites will keep the NBA team flying high. A dedicated entrance serves the sports medicine practice with a view of the main practice courts. From there patients can enter exam rooms complete with imaging facilities and physical rehabilitation. Additional amenities include 3-D motion capture technology and performance improvement services provided by Peak Performance Project (P3).
A similar facility in Colorado Springs, Colorado, will help the athletes representing the United States in the Olympic Games perform at the highest levels. As part of the “City for Champions” sponsored by the U.S. Olympic Committee, the 110,000-sq.-ft. William Hybl Sports Medicine and Performance Center at the University of Colorado, Colorado Springs will train and heal the country’s most elite athletes while providing a place of study for sports medicine students. The building will include a sports medicine clinic, physical therapy and rehab space, tactical performance and outdoor space, anatomy/physio lab, research labs, lecture halls, classrooms and administrative space for faculty and staff. HOK, RTA Architects and JE Dunn Construction are collaborating as the design-build team.
Healthier, Happier Patients
Whether through efforts to improve the healthcare experience, make access more convenient for communities or offer holistic treatment, the needs of patients will continue to drive the way new facilities are planned. With a focus on wellness and the overall experience at a facility, we can design and operate these healthcare settings for healthier and happier patients.
Paul Whitson, AIA, LEED GA, is the regional leader of Healthcare in HOK’s St. Louis office. Paul has more than 25 years of professional experience in the planning and design of healthcare facilities, including academic medical center projects, ambulatory care, sports medicine and cancer centers.