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Healing designs: Hospitals in Florida are redesigning to improve outcomes

With its dramatic three-story atrium, spacious reception area and clusters of comfy chairs, the entryway of Florida Hospital Wesley Chapel feels more like an upscale hotel lobby than a health care facility. In single-patient rooms, sunlight streams through floor-to-ceiling windows that overlook gardens. Each room features a fold-out bed and space for family members who want to stay with loved ones. Rooms in the ER are also private, and patients can personalize the room by selecting an image, such as a tree-lined beach scene, to be projected on the wall.

The amenities are more than just aesthetic. Evidence has shown that a hospital’s design can be therapeutic for patients as well as improve staff well-being and efficiency. Private rooms, for instance, have been shown to reduce infections, reduce medical errors, minimize stress and improve quality of sleep. Family involvement has been found to reduce patient falls and improve the long-term survival of heart patients. Patients with views of the outdoors tend to use less narcotic pain medication and experience shorter hospital stays. Artwork showing scenes of nature can reduce stress levels and encourage healing.

“No white walls. No institutional feel. The idea is when you come in, you’re calm,” says Tracy Clouser, director of marketing for Florida Hospital Wesley Chapel, as she walks into the ER waiting room, which features a 900-gallon saltwater fish tank, digital wall art of a brook and interactive video game stations in an area designed for kids.

Across the state, Jupiter Medical Center is applying new design principles to a $44-million addition and renovation project under way. Patient rooms in the new pavilion will be nearly double the size of existing rooms to provide ample space for patients as well as a dedicated area for their family members.

Most of the new rooms in the new Florence A. De George Pavilion will also feature an identical, repeated layout, so that navigation is instinctive for the staff. The rationale comes from the airline industry, says architect Ted Moore. “Pilots move from plane to plane to plane, and if you moved the controls in every kind of plane, they might make a mistake under pressure … so the idea is create some commonality between all the rooms so when a nurse needs to find something in the room, it’s generally in the same location.” Same-handed rooms, as they are known, also tend to be quieter than traditional “mirrored rooms,” where the headwall of a patient bed in one room is shared with the headwall of the bed in the adjacent room.

While incorporating such features can be more expensive — Moore estimates that same-handed rooms cost about $2,000 or $3,000 more per room to construct — studies show the designs can actually save hospitals money in the long run. The non-profit Center for Health Design estimates that a new 300-bed regional medical center following the new design approach would cost about $12 million more up front, but that those costs would be recouped in just a over a year in operational savings from fewer patient fails, lower drug costs, reduced turnover among nurses, as well as increased market share and philanthropy.

Florida Hospital Wesley Chapel

» Florida Hospital Wesley Chapel has the amenities of a luxury hotel, including a health and wellness center with an indoor pool.

» Four of the ER suites at Florida Hospital Wesley Chapel are designed with children in mind. With the tap of a touch screen, images of dolphins or cartoon characters can be projected on the wall to help ease anxiety.

Jupiter Medical Center

» Rooms in Jupiter Medical Center’s $44-million expansion will feature identical, repeated layouts so that when a nurse needs to find something in the room, “it’s generally in the same location.”

Parrish Medical Center

» Parrish Medical Center’s four-story atrium is light-filled and provides calming views of a nature preserve. Just past the reception desk, a spiral staircase leads to the second level. A concierge greets patients and visitors and can provide assistance with everything from scheduling medical appointments or restaurant reservations to dry cleaning, carwashes and travel services. Within 24 hours of admission to the 210-bed acute care hospital in Titusville, patients are visited by a nursing director or manager who inquires about their experience. If a patient requests more blankets or needs the room tidied, a staff member can issue a service alert from an iPad.

Nemours (Lake Nona)

Rooms at Nemours are all private and 50% larger than required by hospital standards, with elements designed to give patients a sense of control of their environment. With the flip of a bedside switch, kids can change the overhead light filters to instantly “paint” the room with their favorite color at night. Each room has a sofa bed that sleeps two so that more family members can stay with the child. Rooms also have big-screen TVs, a safe, a small refrigerator, a small alcove with a desk, wireless internet access and connections for DVD players and game systems. Floor-to-ceiling windows allow natural light to come in but are equipped with sunshades to protect against glare and have blackout shades to darken the room for sleeping and quiet time.

» Nemours’ streamlined setup, which includes inpatient and outpatient care in the same building, aims to provide a consistent care team for patients and improved efficiency for physicians. Patients register on the floor where they’re being admitted, as opposed to standing in line at a central admissions department. The hospital also has seven kiosks throughout that families can use to check in, make payments and update consent forms.

» Family lounges provide a quiet, TV-free zone for families and other caregivers to relax down the hall from their kids. Lounges have refrigerators, coffee and tea and comfortable furniture such as recliner lounges.