A major national provider of occupational medicine puts forth the challenge: the $1.3 billion company, called Concentra, wants to shift most of its focus from occupational medicine toward urgent care—from a 90:10 ratio to a 40:60 ratio, specifically—and to redesign and rebrand its 321 clinics in 40 states accordingly. Accepting the challenge was the retail design company Little—its first venture into the healthcare arena. In planning the prototype clinic in Charlotte, North Carolina, which opened just this October, Little referred to successful branding strategies by such retail giants as Target, Starbucks, and the women's fitness centers Curves. The ideas and concepts that were developed for the Charlotte clinic are set to be adopted by the Concentra line throughout the United States in coming months. Recently Design Director Todd Rowland and Art Director Santiago Crespo of Little reviewed this mega-rebranding project with HEALTHCARE DESIGN Editor-in-Chief Richard L. Peck.

Richard L. Peck: How did you first conceptualize this major brand change?

Santiago Crespo: Concentra had grown largely through the acquisition of facilities across the United States, so consistency was always an issue. Strategically, they recognized a need to change to an urgent care business model because they saw healthcare's major growth going in that direction.

Todd Rowland: They were moving from an employer- and industry-centered market to a more family-focused market, but just weren't sure how to take that next step. They were striving for an environment that their own families would consider warm and inviting.

Crespo: In trying to address this, they divided their facilities into halves, occupational medicine and urgent care, but it appeared to be an odd setup, and one half always seemed to be empty. They knew they had to look at this more comprehensively.

Peck: And your first cut at this was…?

Rowland: We kept both services within the same structure but with different approaches and environments for each of the patient types. The physicians' mindset with regards to occupational medicine had been to get the clients healthy and back to work in an efficient manner. It was a paradigm shift to sit down with patients in an environment more conducive to a conversation about a health concern. So we envisioned the occupational side around a more convenient and efficient floor plan model. Patients entering the welcome lounge for occupational medicine services would be directed to the areas most closely associated with those services, while the other side of the lounge was more dedicated to urgent care services.

Crespo: The main approach was to do this holistically, to communicate with the design the facility's efficiency and organization and to help people feel at ease.

Rowland: For this, we incorporated different seating types: sofas, built-in semiprivate areas and individual seats [figure 1]. On a recent visit, we saw a small construction team being taken efficiently through the occupational medicine side, while the urgent care patients waited in semiprivate, comfortable seating. We installed a frosted glass transom and side light on exam room doors to help minimize patient anxiety.

Peck: Some of the background material on this project mentioned retail giants Target, Starbucks, and Curves as resources you used for this. What lessons did you draw from those companies?

Rowland: Concentra hired Little because they wanted a company with retail design experience to help them with this major repositioning of their brand. In partnership with Frame 360, we started with a two-day workshop with their team of doctors to find out what they ultimately wanted to create. As a part of that exercise, we also examined retailers whom we thought were particularly strong in establishing their brands.

Crespo: We like Target, for example, because of their excellent in-store communications to customers and for how they use design to provide a better service—like they've done, for example, with their prescription drug packaging.

Rowland: And Starbucks stands out for its efficient operations in serving a wide variety of coffee products to a varied clientele quickly and in perfect order, one after the other. And Curves we admired because its branding and marketing appeal so directly and effectively to its target market.

Crespo: Through all of this, Concentra—a great client—was completely open to doing the right thing, including changing their name if necessary. In the end we decided that keeping the name was a good thing, because it suggested a focus on treating people the right way. Concentra's motto is “To improve the health of America, one patient at a time.” It was our job to get this idea across to their core customers.

Peck: Aside from the physical feel of the two sections, what else gets this across to people?

Crespo: Concentra has emphasized training staff for this more personalized care, but there are other more physical factors.

Rowland: For example, there are very specific reasons for the uses of color. Everyone accepts bold red as a color for emergency care, and it is also associated with the Red Cross. So we developed a cross symbol in orange, the color for urgent care [figure 2]. These orange crosses can be seen on the wall to the rear of the welcome desk.

Crespo: Also, the old logo has the word “Concentra” surrounded by blue ripples of water, and the letters are too small. So now we have “Concentra” in bolder letters, with an orange cross at the letter “t” [figure 3].

Crespo: We also tried to give the entire facility a residential, comforting feel, not just have it be an antiseptic, cold maze of corridors [figure 4].

Peck: What is the future for this design?

Rowland: Although this is a 10,500-square-foot facility, Concentra will be rolling this out in somewhat consistent format—approximately, 8,000-10,000 square feet—across the nation, starting in California and Texas. HD

For further information about this project, contact Todd Rowland at trowland@littleonline.com or 704.561.4565, or Santiago Crespo at screspo@littleonline.com or 704.561.4593. For information about Little, visit http://www.littleonline.com.

Healthcare Design 2008 December;8(12):44-48