No two healthcare facilities are exactly the same, and it appears to me more and more that the only way a single facility can truly be successful is to know its patients and their needs to the very core. Two such examples of this process were featured this morning at the ASHE PDC Summit in Tampa, Florida, during the educational session “New Challenges—New Solutions, Part 1.”

Two case studies were shared with attendees, the first by Natalie Miovski, AIA, LEED AP, principal with Ewing Cole; and Kate Fleetwood, MHSA, SSBB, project manager, administration, Geisinger Medical Center. The two offered insight they gained after going through the process of adapting all of Geisinger’s cardiology functions into an acuity-adaptable patient room and unit.

After much assessment of what would best address patient safety, patient aggregation by disease/service line, and a staff-friendly design, the result was a 30-bed unit that can handle the gamut of cardiology cases. Rarely do patients need to change rooms nor are they “discharged” to another unit for additional recovery time.

So while patients are coming in sicker (from the most severe cardiac patients), the mortality ratio has gone down significantly, and so has overall length of stay.

Another example of adapting a facility to its specific patients' needs is the New Orleans VA Medical Center, a replacement facility being constructed to provide care to more than 2,000 veterans per day. On hand were Doug Parris, AIA, partner, NBBJ; Julie Catellier, medical center director, Southeast Louisiana Veterans Healthcare System; and Ryan Hullinger, senior associate, NBBJ.

In the planning of the project, the team developed communication both locally and with the national VA hospital system. An intense design charrette included virtual and physical models to make the ideas developed more tangible. Advisors included community members, employees, and an executive advisory team. However, above all else, the veterans themselves were key to the design.

Hullinger shared some figures that played a role, such as the fact that 48% of veterans coming out of the current combat theater require mental health treatment or that 27% of veterans have a disability.

One principle incorporated was that veterans often are used to the military making choices for them and become overwhelmed when faced with a variety of choices in their outside lives. A concept such as this is mirrored in the wayfinding of the facility, which incorporates a single public space that ties all of the buildings together, streamlining wayfinding and reducing choices.

Each in their own way, these facilities targeted precisely what their patients’ needs are, and how best their specific facility can treat them.