The only program of its kind in the Midwest-medically based and dedicated solely to the treatment of eating disorders-the Park Nicollet Melrose Institute is an important addition to the region's healthcare community. The new 67,000-square-foot building consolidates the services of the former Park Nicollet Eating Disorders Institute, and provides both inpatient and outpatient care.

Park Nicollet is a long-time proponent of using Lean methodologies to improve healthcare quality and efficiency, and this project is no exception. In 2006, a weeklong 3P (Production, Preparation Process) workshop was held-including staff, administrators, patients, and design team representatives. The workshop analyzed the flow of the current practice, identified its strengths and weaknesses, and eliminated unnecessary waste. It became very apparent that the inefficiencies of the curriculum had been a result of dispersed facilities. The outcome was development of a new model of care for eating disorders, breaking down the silos of their previous curriculum in favor of customized treatment. The new approach combines medical care, psychiatric services, psychotherapy, and nutrition counseling. In turn, this new care philosophy shaped the building's planning and design.

The first floor contains the majority of the semi-public program elements such as triage and assessment, chapel, bookstore, exercise room, and dining facilities. The second floor contains semi-private program elements, including individual and group therapy rooms as well as two experiential kitchens, where patients can learn about proper nutrition and to handle and cook food without anxiety in a homelike environment. The third floor houses inpatient and residential programs. Its north wing is a 30-bed unit for ambulatory patients requiring 24/7 monitoring by the care team. The south wing is a 9-bed unit that maintains a residential atmosphere, intended to aid patients in being more independent under the care of medical staff as they transition back into their everyday lives.

The design provides a school-like setting that is enhanced by computer kiosks where patients can sign up for individual and group therapy sessions that fit their schedule, just like students with classes. This, along with other details like remote readouts for scales, helps reduce patients' anxiety levels and allows them to focus on behavioral learning. Because the majority of patients are high school students, accommodation for tutoring and distance learning is provided. Connectivity for outpatients helps support their schoolwork and maintain their social networks.

A notable feature of this project is its connection to nature. The building is sited to create views toward a neighboring nature preserve and provide outdoor program space. Special therapeutic healing gardens are provided for the enjoyment of patients and families alike. For a project on such a lovely natural setting, incorporating natural and sustainable materials and design principles was of great importance to both the client and the design team.

Jury Comment: This is a beautiful project with great language of the interior and exterior. Patient lounges and waiting areas have gracious access to patios overlooking a nature preserve. Large windows provide gorgeous daylighting.

Healthcare Design 2009 September;9(9):260-261