The mobile-centric world we live in today is spilling over into the healthcare workplace, but the built environment that exists may not be ready to support the trend. It’s a challenge that one team of college students tackled by creating solutions for a healthcare setting that breaks down space restrictions to free up staffers to be more efficient while they’re on the go. 

Their project, “Innovative Design for Cancer Centers Through the Use of ‘Care Control Stations,’” won the 2012 Nurture Collegiate Healthcare Design Competition and was recognized at this year’s HEALTHCARE DESIGN Conference in Phoenix. For the contest, Nurture by Steelcase, Healthcare Design magazine, and The Center for Health Design asked teams to create design solutions that support the new mobile realities of working in healthcare today.

The Texas Tech University team of Diana Sabouni, Rehab Aburas, Duy Pham, Haitham El-Hammali, and Islam Obeidat was recognized by judges for coming up with a solution that was supported by research and creating design concepts that answered the problem statement.

In fact, mentor Debajyoti Pati, professor at Texas Tech and executive director of the Center for Advanced Design Research & Evaluation, says he challenged the team to make the problem a priority by first focusing on defining it, rather than starting off with the solution.

“It involved a constant process of diverting their focus from physical design to understanding the complex interactions between clinical processes, actors, culture, physical design, and technology,” Pati says. “Technology, physical design, or process design alone do not solve problems. One needs a solution that combines the three.”  

The context of the project is an existing 86,000-square-foot outpatient cancer center in the Midwest, with 6,250 feet of space to be remodeled. In the current facility, nurses’ stations lack privacy, information organization, work space, and technology.

To start, the team’s objectives were to:

  • Enhance staff workflow and mobility, ensure staff and patient communication privacy, and increase staff productivity and collaboration through the use of what they dubbed “care control stations”
  • Create a mobile and technologically advanced environment that has a positive influence on the healing process by increasing staff workflow, productivity, satisfaction, and well-being
  • Improve communication between patients and staff in order to decrease medical errors, time, and anxiety/stress levels, and increase collaboration.

In Pati’s opinion, the most innovative component of the team’s overall design concept are its care control stations “that offer multiple choices of interaction, privacy, and instantaneous information access, to serve as a mother ship for easy docking of individuals and technology.”

In short, the stations consist of public areas where patients and staff can collaborate, a multifunctional area where levels of privacy can be adjusted with rotating partitions, and a technology area featuring flexible and smart glass. That smart glass, an application that can change a glass surface into an opaque form on demand for use with projection and video displays, is just the beginning of wiring the remodel for mobility and collaboration on the fly.

Other project specifications include mobile work stations that can be wheeled between work areas, patient rooms, and other points of care; and a smart watch device with a GPS module to facilitate tracking patients within the facility and updating their information to digital files.

While an impressive project overall, Pati says he was struck by his team’s ability to breathe new life into an old space—“taking an existing physical space/location designed for an obsolete process design and using technology and design solutions (both existing technology as well as those currently undergoing testing) to propose a solution for a significantly different process that involves high levels of staff mobility and interactivity,” he says.

For more information on all of the winning teams, please see www.healthcaredesignmagazine.com/article/students-design-healthcare-spaces-mobile-work-environment. Jennifer Kovacs Silvis can be reached at jsilvis@vendomegrp.com.