Evidence-based design for building a World-Class Heart Hospital Part One

March 1, 2007
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The first of a two-part article on how this large academic medical center put research findings to use

To realize their vision of becoming “world class,” The Ohio State University Medical Center (OSUMC) knew that “business as usual” would not apply. Building on the strategies set forth by its board in 1998, and on the heels of the completion of another campus facility called The Davis Heart and Lung Research Institute, OSUMC set out to create a distinct and dedicated heart hospital. To remain viable in this competitive market, OSUMC needed a differentiating edge, particularly because two other reputable healthcare providers in Columbus were already in the process of creating recognizable cardiac brands in the community with new facilities.

Being an academic medical center, OSUMC had always offered state-of-the-art, high-quality care based on research. Over time, however, cardiac services became scattered across the constantly growing campus and the center fell short on the quality-of-care experience—for the patient, family, staff, and physicians. Patients often made multiple trips to the hospital for diagnosis and treatment. Physician and staff efficiency was hindered, as nurses needed to accompany patients on multiple transfers, while physicians had to travel long distances between procedural and patient care areas. In fact, some portions of the cardiovascular (CV) care service line were separated by more than 1,200 feet and multiple elevator rides.

To effectively compete in its cardiac care marketplace, OSUMC envisioned designing a facility that would be flexible enough to provide leading-edge therapies—now and in the future—in a patient-centered environment that would enhance the overall healthcare experience. The facility would not only focus on patients and families, but also on staff and physician needs in an effort to recruit and retain the brightest and best clinicians.

One key to the design process was the creation of a team that would not only develop this vision. The team included OSUMC administration and facility planning teams; clinicians (physicians, nurses, and allied health professionals); and external expertise from Corazon, Inc.; DesignGroup Architects; and Hammel, Green, and Abrahamson, Inc. (HGA). Collaborating with numerous project stakeholders and focus groups, this multidisciplinary team integrated futuristic, innovative thinking to optimize operations, patient flow, and facility design to create a new model for excellence in cardiovascular care delivery—The Richard M. Ross Heart Hospital.

This article, part one of a two-part series, will address the designers and planners’ emphasis on the patient and family as key consumers.

Patient Arrival

The patient experience begins with the arrival sequence, and so the planning of the Ross Heart Hospital (RHH) placed added significance on the design of the surrounding campus. A space that had been surface parking was converted into a new arrival plaza, which improved wayfinding for the arriving visitor. This campus green transformed the entrance of the facility from a confusing sea of parking to a calming, beautiful, usable outdoor area connecting the visitor intuitively to OSUMC.

RHH's prominent atrium with its covered drop-off area functions as a beacon for arriving traffic. A 1,000-car attached garage offers convenient parking for patients and visitors. A contiguous caf and deli offer a more campus-like feel instead of the usual sterile hospital environment.

Upon entering RHH, the four-story, 3,500-square-foot atrium serves as an essential wayfinding device with its natural light and crossroads position. Visitors are welcomed by greeters and can easily locate the registration desk, elevators, and waiting areas for all floors. Views of the atrium and plaza are available from family waiting areas located on each floor. The atrium finishes contribute to its warm character and include maple paneling, terrazzo, carpeting, and fabric-covered acoustic panels. Overhead, suspended lighting supported on cables act as luminous “mobiles,” animating the space. The atrium's large expanse and natural light help reinforce feelings of security and reduce stress.

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