Healthcare Architecture Evolution
The following article was published in the Utah Construction & Design Magazine October 2020 Issue. http://utahcdmag.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/11/UCD.OCT_.newspreads.pdf
Trends and forecasts for clinics, hospitals, and assisted living
Like many project types, the needs and trends of healthcare facilities – hospitals, clinics, and assisted living facilities – are always evolving. Principals at Curtis Miner Architecture (CMA), Gerrit Timmerman and Jay Taggart, work with healthcare clients to translate their existing needs into facilities that better serve them and their patients.
Healthcare management is making every effort to move away from the old standard of sterile, cold facilities. Today, the experience of the patient is as important as the care they receive. For the lobby remodel of American Fork Hospital, CMA converted their existing lobby to a space that feels more like a hotel lobby – welcoming with warm finishes, natural light, comfortable vignette seating and improved patient wayfinding.
In addition to enhanced finishes, healthcare facilities managers are working with designers to update floorplans to provide more privacy for patients. At Intermountain Healthcare Women’s Center, CMA is transforming an existing mammography and ultrasound department that currently has a combined waiting area for both men and women. Separating general ultrasound services from the services provided in Women’s Center will create better departmental adjacencies and improved operational flows as well as a more comfortable and private patient experience.
Assisted and independent living facilities are also prioritizing the resident experience by providing amenities that feel more like home. Many facilities have private rooms for residents and their families to visit, away from others. Meeting and activity spaces extend outdoors with fire pits, fishing ponds, and mini golf. New food service models enable active and food-savvy residents to maintain a sense of independence by incorporating stations where residents can prepare their own meals should they choose not to utilize the dining room. Studies show living conditions and environments that support well-being and dignity improve mental and physical health.
Trends in healthcare design are also taking into account improved operational efficiencies that empower doctors, nurses, technicians, and staff to provide better care. The on- and off-stage concept is an operational improvement being implemented in clinics where the patient’s ingress/egress path is separated from the work areas. All areas where the doctors and nurses interact with patients would be considered “on-stage,” and the offices, workstations, labs and other areas where patients are restricted from is “off-stage.” This concept offers private entrances to exam rooms for patients and another entrance for doctors and nurses to directly access “off-stage” work areas. Keeping the areas divided enhances patient privacy and provides healthcare providers a better environment to focus on work.
Additionally, improvements in technology can facilitate flexibility in space allocation. Where in the past, large equipment would have its own dedicated room, today, much smaller and effective equipment is kept in the exam room saving time by eliminating the shuffle of patients from one area to another. A common theme for hospitals, clinics and assisted living facilities alike is the revised layout of lobbies and waiting rooms to provide staff a direct line of sight to visitors. A clearer line of sight not only enables staff to better serve patients, it also promotes safety and security.
Here to Stay: In-Person Exams
One trend that isn’t new to the healthcare industry is the increasing need for exam rooms. Even during the pandemic and the push to utilize telemedicine, people still prefer visiting their doctors in person for exams. Hospitals and clinics are either repurposing existing space, constructing additions to accommodate more exam rooms, or building new clinics with “warm lit” shell space in anticipation of needing more space in the future. A “warm-lit” shell space is one that is partially finished with carpet, drywall, lighting, electrical outlets, and data lines. Gerrit Timmerman explains, “Warm-lit spaces give the client flexibility for future growth. There is an initial cost savings by not including furnishings and equipment for a room that isn’t immediately needed. Then when the time comes where additional exam rooms are needed, these shelled spaces can be built out and a finished exam room available much faster than if it was a ‘cold shell’ without interior finishes.”
Regardless of the improvement project healthcare providers are undertaking, they should never underestimate the value that an architecture firm provides. “We approach every project with experience, but never preconceptions. Our job is to sit down with clients and ask questions about their operations, needs and wants, and then listen,” describes Jay Taggart. “We then use the information we’ve gathered from the client, combine it with our experience in healthcare best practices and the result is a concept that enhances the patient’s experience and improves operational flow for our clients.”