Can good design impact medical outcomes and reduce costs? We asked ourselves that recently when remodeling a pediatric radiology department for a healthcare provider in Washington, D.C.

While the programming and technology of radiology departments are fairly uniform from institution to institution, a pediatric unit requires special attention from adult units. Pediatric units include both pre- and post-op spaces to accommodate increased sedation to calm nervous children. In addition, pediatric units often offer expanded family spaces to accommodate parents whose children are undergoing stressful—and even frightening—MRI procedures.

If the design of pediatric units can actually reduce children’s stress, then the need for sedation and, thus, cost would be reduced as well, we reasoned. That was our objective in the master planning and multi-phase remodeling of Children’s NationalMedicalCenter pediatric diagnostic imaging and radiology departments.

To create an efficient child- and family-centered imaging center, we employed Lean design tools focused on people, processes, technology, and spaces. The core of our Lean approach was a series of four-hour interactive workshops and interviews with the hospital stakeholders (physicians, staff, and user groups) to define the ideal patient experience. We formed three subgroups—inpatient, outpatient, and sedation—to determine the voice of the customer, with the ultimate objective of improving patient and staff satisfaction.

Our pre-design process formed the basis for our final design. To reduce children’s stress, we created a space that works efficiently and allows caregivers to deliver services seamlessly. The less stress on caregivers, the less stress on children. We also created a space that visually calms children, and even delights them in unexpected ways. Playful colors—yellows, greens, blues, purples—brighten the walls and patterned floors. Fanciful nature imagery highlights etched-glass doors and wall hangings. And custom lighting, from the illuminated mint-green reception desk to the twinkling ceiling lights in radiology rooms, offers pleasant distractions.

So do efficient layouts and engaging colors actually reduce children’s stress? The first phase of Children’s National just opened this fall. As we move forward, we will assess our design’s impact on children’s stress levels and the need for sedation.

I’ll let you know what we discover. Keep me posted on your thoughts.