When Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center (MSK) set out to create a new freestanding outpatient surgery center in Manhattan, it got the opportunity to address a capacity issue and move outpatient operative cases off its main campus. The operator also got the chance to design the short-stay recovery unit from the ground up.

“If patients don’t need to stay in the hospital, they are better off at home,” says Dr. Brett A. Simon, director of Memorial Sloan Kettering’s Josie Robertson Surgery Center. “Secondarily, shorter stays reduce costs for those procedures.”

The approach required a new care model, so MSK worked with Perkins Eastman (New York) to replace its traditional open recovery rooms with private rooms. “We move the patients once from the OR to their post-op room, and adjust the resources to meet the patient’s changing needs,” Simon says. “It reduces the number of transfers and handoffs and it enables incredible continuity of care.”

To further promote recovery, the layout is designed to encourage ambulation with hallways arranged in a figure-eight with an “oasis” area in the center, where patients can mingle with staff or family members or grab a bite to eat. “We created an opening in the center core of the unit, which allows them to do a figure eight, or to do two shorter loops,” says Suzen Heeley, executive director, design and construction at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. There are also places of interest and rest stops along the way.

New York-based deisgn firm Icrave was charged with enhancing the patient experience to support the goal of creating a less clinical setting for short-stay patients. Lionel Ohayon, CEO and founder of Icrave, says the team used learnings from hospitality to provide spaces for patients, caregivers, and the staff to relax, find privacy, grab a bite to eat, or sit down and check email. “What we really looked at was who are the stakeholders and what are the points of contact?” he says.

For example, Icrave made some suggestions to the design of the private patient rooms regarding some of the finishes that were implemented, including revising the bathroom tile and the color of the wood, to better align with the aesthetic of the non-clinical spaces.

The team also worked together to design custom furnishings, such as a recliner, table, and bedside cabinet, which were designed to better fit the size and appearance of the room. “A lot of stuff on the market was too large,” Heeley says. “It had to work in a more intimate environment.”

Jeff Brand, national healthcare leader at Perkins Eastman, says patients are also able to control the lighting and shades. “They are like little hotel rooms,” he says. “That’s the building block of this particular facility.”

Another challenge on the project was finding real estate in Manhattan. MSK ended up acquiring a property with a tight footprint, which meant the project had to be designed vertically instead of horizontally, which is the traditional platform for surgical suites.

Mary-Jean Eastman, a principal and executive director at Perkins Eastman, says the building was stacked according to what was logical from the hospital’s perspective as well as for the best mechanical organization of the building.

For example, two floors—the third-floor waiting area and the staff lounge on the top of the building—needed a lot of transparency, while the recovery and surgery areas needed more of a sense of protection and privacy. This resulted in a gradation of transparency on the building exterior that corresponds with the program inside using fritted glass.

The Josie Robertson Surgery Center is expected to open in the first quarter of 2016.

Anne DiNardo is senior editor of Healthcare Design. She can be reached at anne.dinardo@emeraldexpo.com.