Change is about meeting a fundamental need,  Avein Saaty-Tafoya told audiences at the Healthcare Design Conference.
On stage to accept The Center for Health Design's Changemaker Award, which honors organizations and individuals that have demonstrated the ability to change the way healthcare facilities are designed and built, Saaty-Tafoya talked about her career and serving the needs of others as a doctor, an artist, and in her current position as CEO of Adelante Healthcare.
During a fellowship that took her to such cities as Detroit and Big Sur, Calif., Saaty-Tafoya had the opportunity to visit with other healthcare organizations and observe best practice ideas as well as reflect on her career.
"I couldn't go back to normal [after that]," she said. "I had changed and I knew my organization had to change, too."
That organization, which started in 1979 serving migrant farm workers, needed to adapt to a changing marketplace and evolving patient needs. She also wanted to stop the marginalization of the underserved and impoverished patient population by improving the quality of care.
She recognized that patients with choices have much higher expectations, so she started focusing on attracting a broader mix of patients to  Adelante's facilities.
"We wanted to reset the patient experience and what access to healthcare meant," she said.
Her solution: putting healthcare services around the patient and letting them drive the experience by personalizing care to their needs.
Turning to design to help create that experience, she looked at environments where people felt best, such as adopting retail principles with healthcare best practices and applying them to ambulatory care.
The results at Adelante's seven locations are light-filled atriums, seating choices that invite patients to "sit and stay awhile," and smaller waiting rooms that are separate and designed for specific patient populations, such as seniors, sick or well patients, and pediatric.
In the care areas, the patient exam room is flanked by two talking rooms where families, patients, and providers can meet and talk before moving on to the physical exam part of a patient visit.
The outcome, Saaty-Tafoya said, is a patient-centered medical home model where patients feel more in control, more confident, and leave wanting to come back.
"We need to reset the population's attribute toward healthcare," she said.
Turning to the audience, she encouraged attendees to use their roles in healthcare design, architecture, and as providers to change the expectations, the experiences, and the outcomes.
"Make it a movement," she said.
For more on Avein Saaty-Tafoya, read "Q&A With Avein Saaty-Tafoya, Adelante Healthcare."