En­gag­ing pa­tients through de­sign

Award win­ners cre­ate ‘en­vi­ron­ment of heal­ing’

Modern Healthcare - - DESIGN AWARDS - By An­dis Robeznieks

Now in their 29th year, Mod­ern Health­care’s De­sign Awards have chron­i­cled the in­dus­try’s pur­suit to de­fine, de­sign and cre­ate the ideal heal­ing en­vi­ron­ment. And, ac­cord­ing to one of this year’s judges, the strong­est en­tries in this year’s com­pe­ti­tion are al­ready far along on that jour­ney.

“The idea is that care of the pa­tient goes beyond the acute episodes and it now in­volves so­cial support and ed­u­ca­tional support in a non­tra­di­tional, holis­tic way,” said James Bi­cak, vice pres­i­dent of fa­cil­i­ties, en­gi­neer­ing and hos­pi­tal­ity ser­vices at Si­nai Health Sys­tem, a safety net provider in Chicago. “The best projects il­lus­trate how they in­cor­po­rated that into their think­ing, plan­ning and ar­chi­tec­ture. They all talked about en­gage­ment—not just pa­tients and staff—but the whole fam­ily. The dif­fer­ence was in how they ex­e­cuted it.”

Awards judge Ni­cholas Te­jeda, CEO of Tenet Health­care Corp.’s Doc­tors Hos­pi­tal of Man­teca (Calif.), agreed. “I viewed the en­tries through three dif­fer­ent lenses: form, func­tion and cre­ativ­ity. The best projects in­te­grated func­tion with the en­vi­ron­ment out­side their walls and cre­ated an en­vi­ron­ment of heal­ing.”

He said the best de­signs fea­ture spa­ces that “felt open, but con­nected,” and put care­givers close to the pa­tient with­out be­ing in­tru­sive. Te­jeda said all the en­tries were well done and only a few de­grees of dif­fer­ence sep­a­rated the top per­form­ers from the other con­tenders. “It shows clear ev­i­dence that or­ga­ni­za­tions of all types—and their ar­chi­tec­tural part­ners—are tak­ing steps to put pa­tients and care­givers at the cen­ter of the fa­cil­ity.”

Bi­cak said the con­cept isn’t to make hos­pi­tals more like ho­tels. He agrees with for­mer CMS Ad­min­is­tra­tor Dr. Don­ald Berwick, who has ar­gued that such an ap­proach—which started to gain trac­tion about six years ago—doesn’t work. That’s be­cause no mat­ter how hard staff might try to make pa­tients feel like guests and no mat­ter how many hos­pi­tal­i­ty­type ameni­ties hos­pi­tals pro­vide, pa­tients would still rather be some­where else. In­stead, Berwick said it’s the doc­tors and nurses who are the guests in pa­tients’ lives. Bi­cak said the top de­signs pro­mote this feel­ing.

Contest en­tries were eval­u­ated on de­sign ex­cel­lence, func­tional util­ity, flex­i­bil­ity, and re­sponse to pa­tients and fam­ily. The projects that best re­flected th­ese cri­te­ria were the Chris O’Brien Life­house, a can­cer-treat­ment cen­ter in Syd­ney; and Spauld­ing Re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion Hos­pi­tal, a Part­ners Health­Care fa­cil­ity in Bos­ton. Both projects won an Award of Ex­cel­lence, the high­est des­ig­na­tion in Mod­ern Health­care’s De­sign Awards.

Owens­boro (Ky.) Health Re­gional Hos­pi­tal re­ceived an Hon­or­able Men­tion, the sec­ond-high­est award.

Three projects won Ci­ta­tion awards. They are Bridge­point Ac­tive Health­care, a con­tin­u­ing-care and re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion cen­ter in Toronto; Nueva Expansión Hos­pi­tal Ob­ser­va­to­rio, an in­pa­tient tower project in Mex­ico City; and the Univer­sity of Ari­zona Med­i­cal Cen­ter’s Be­hav­ioral Health Pavil­ion and Cri­sis Re­sponse Cen­ter in Tuc­son.

Can­cer cen­ters are fre­quent win­ners in the De­sign Awards and this year is no ex­cep­tion. The cen­ters—along with chil­dren’s hos­pi­tals—tend to at­tract sicker pa­tients with longer stays or more fre­quent vis­its. De­sign­ers of th­ese fa­cil­i­ties make ex­tra ef­forts to de-in­sti­tu­tion­al­ize the en­vi­ron­ment and add pos­i­tive dis­trac­tions while striv­ing to re­move any­thing that can add to pa­tient stress.

Nat­u­ral light has been em­pha­sized in re­cent years, but there’s more to it than cladding a hos­pi­tal with glass. Bi­cak ad­mired how the Chris O’Brien project uses a nine-story cen­tral atrium to in­fuse the build­ing with sun­light.

“It didn’t shut the world off, but it still of­fered a sense of safety and en­clo­sure,” he said. “It of­fered plenty of nat­u­ral light with­out mak­ing peo­ple inside feel ex­posed.”

The best projects, Bi­cak said, were able to “ex­e­cute en­gage­ment and func­tion­al­ity” while re­flect­ing the lo­cal en­vi­ron­ment with their use of ma­te­ri­als and ap­proach. This in­cluded projects in cold cli­mates, deserts and on wa­ter­fronts. “Rather than in­tro­duce some­thing ex­otic, there is a strong de­sire to let peo­ple un­der­stand that th­ese fa­cil­i­ties are in their com­mu­nity,” he said. “They make the state­ment that this is a com­mu­nity re­source.”

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