Redesigning the patient experience of a complex urban tertiary hospital was a challenge welcomed by St. Mary's, a member of SSM Health Care, the first healthcare organization to win the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award. Key to this project's success was close collaboration with neighbors who wanted the growing healthcare campus to enhance their environment and be a catalyst for renewal of the arterial edge of their neighborhood. Staff members and physicians—210 of them—participated in the design of a new “front door” for the campus, which combined multiple processes for procedural patients at that front-door location, creating a more convenient and efficient experience for patients, families, and staff.

The $174 million (including fees and equipment) addition and renovation project—which includes 75 new private inpatient beds, 42 operating rooms, and 1,251 new parking stalls—also organizes hospital-based physicians' offices and ambulatory surgery. Highlighted features include vertically integrated cardiac and surgical Centers of Excellence with private inpatient beds and intensive care, a “no-wait” emergency department, and a rooftop helipad.

Project category: Project in progress (December 2007)

Chief administrator: Frank D. Byrne, MD, President and CEO, (608) 258-6733

Firm: Kahler Slater Architects, Inc., (414) 272-2000

Design team: James G. Rasche AIA, ACHA, Project Executive; Jennifer Schlimgen, AIA, Principal-in-Charge, Healing Experiences Designer; Matt Rinka, AIA, Design Architect; Cathleen Feland, AIA, Architect, Planner; Jude Wessels, Designer, Planner; Katy Frey, ASID, Interior Designer

Illustration: Anderson Illustration Associates, Inc.; Kahler Slater Architects, Inc.

Total building area (sq. ft.): 230,000 (new); 73,000 (renovation)

Construction cost/sq. ft.: $399 (new); $188 (renovation)

Total construction cost (excluding land): $91,809,926 (new); $13,688,000 (renovation)

Thoughtful amenities include a roof terrace adjacent to the cardiovascular intensive care unit, an entry-level healing garden, screened porches on inpatient care units, a winter garden, water features, valet parking, a family lounge fireplace, a resource center, and a café. A cardiopulmonary rehabilitation gym is available to staff 24/7. Technologically advanced systems—including electronic health records, the Picture Archives Communication System, and wireless communication—are featured to enhance communication and patient safety.

The design team and client utilized a research strategy that combined an evidence-based design inquiry with a primary research investigation, initially pursued to facilitate appropriate flooring decisions. The findings resulted in a broader “Culture of Quiet” philosophy, creating a response from the design team as well as the hospital. Various strategies were implemented in the planning of the hospital's new inpatient floors to effect a healthy sound environment. Revised patient and material paths of movement relative to the impact of sound, the location of noisy equipment in closed rooms to contain noise, and decentralized charting stations with high-performance acoustical materials for sound absorption were all implemented. Specified noise-minimizing features, including hardware, flooring transition strips, and access systems, were employed.

St. Mary's Hospital Medical Center has been honored with numerous awards, including the Magnet Award for Nursing Excellence and the Wisconsin Forward Award of Excellence, and it has also been named one of the top 100 hospitals.