BASED ON AN INTERVIEW WITH LINDA MARZIALO, PRINCIPAL ARCHITECT, GOULD TURNER GROUP, PC

Project Summary

Client: Flathead Outpatient Surgery Center/Northwest Imaging, Inc./Kalispell Regional Medical Center

Architecture: Gould Turner Group, PC

Construction: Swank Enterprises

Civil Engineering: Robert Peccia

Photography: Rion Rizzo/Creative Sources Photography

Completed: August 2003

Total Building Area (sq. ft.): 131,755

Total Construction Cost: $17.7 million

Cost/Sq. Ft.: $134

When the Flathead Outpatient Surgery Center and Northwest Imaging, two long- established providers in Kalispell, Montana, decided they needed room to grow, their basic solution was simple, on the face of it: Bring both their organizations together in one newly built facility. That “simple solution,” though, encompassed many complex goals.

They both wanted increased operational efficiency, plenty of modern high-tech equipment for surgery and diagnostics, a welcoming feel for patients and families, a respect for patient privacy, an environment for encouraging wellness, and more room to grow further. All of this was to be achieved in a two-story building encompassing 131,755 square feet.

To bring so much “high-tech and high-touch” into such close proximity was a major challenge in architectural design. Consider the high-tech side. The first floor of the new building includes space for MRI and CT, two x-ray rooms, a chest evaluation room, and four ultrasound rooms, with space for adding more x-ray and ultrasound services in the future. Surgery has three operating rooms plus space for three more, and there is a dedicated eye surgery center, with two operating rooms and pre- and postop suites.


Also on the first floor is a women's imaging suite, with three mammography rooms, a room for stereotactic biopsy, and a bone densitometry room. There is also a laboratory for pre-op testing and a small lab with two venipuncture stations. The second floor offers 18 patient rooms for brief overnight stays, with all the supportive technology needed in this environment, and shell space for growth to 38 rooms.

This is, in essence, a phenomenal concentration of technology in a relatively small space—and yet the building does not convey a cold, high-tech image. Special efforts were made to create a welcoming, homelike, noninstitutional atmosphere throughout both floors.


How was this done? Let's start with the more conventional challenge: creating rooms that are patient- and family-friendly. The rooms are large enough to accommodate families, with half of them having sofa beds for overnight stays. Each has a private bath. The rooms also feature customized cherry cabinets (to cover medical gases equipment), footboards on the beds, drapes, and comforters. Wall sconces are used for lighting, and all rooms have large exterior windows, taking full advantage of the views offered by the mountains in nearby Glacier National Park.

Now to the first floor, where all that technology is situated: There are separate waiting rooms for surgery, imagery, and the lab. Each features warm-toned finishes, wood, attractive flooring patterns, skylights to admit natural light, and natural materials (such as the stone water walls) that blend in with the Montana environment. The waiting rooms also include a variety of seating types, with sofas, chairs, and tables arranged for comfortable family get-togethers.


Another important aspect bolstering the hospitality effect is the facility's arrangement of traffic patterns and wayfinding aids. From separate covered entryways for surgery and imaging, people are clearly guided to their destination of choice. Postop has a separate discharge area so that patients who are leaving don't have to walk through the primary waiting room. Clear signage throughout directs patients to the appropriate registration areas and is planned to avoid unnecessary mixing and mingling of staff and patients. Outpatients have private spaces in which to undress for procedures, and the spaces are adjacent to specific modalities, such as MRI, CT, ultrasound, and mammography, so that patients don't have to proceed exposed along common hallways.

The eye surgery center, which the owners included for added patient convenience, has its own pre-op, OR, and recovery spaces, and features the same hospitality-oriented design of the main surgery and imaging areas.

In sum, the building achieves what the owners set out to do—to continue to offer the high-quality services for which they are well known, but with a strong emphasis on patient comfort and wellness. It has been designed for ease of expansion and growth and, judging by patient acceptance, the prospects for this in the near future are strong. HD