The art of designing patient-friendly hospitals

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by Dan Rafter

There’s nothing convenient about going to a sprawling hospital campus. It’s hard to find parking. You might struggle to find the entrance to the main hospital. And once you’re in? You often have to wander a maze of halls to get where you need to go.

But it doesn’t have to be that way. Designers today are focusing on simplicity when they draft the plans for new medical facilities. And this trend is helping to make modern hospitals far more patient-friendly.

A good example of the new style of medical center opened earlier this year in Indianapolis. The Eskenazi Health Campus, designed by architecture firm HOK, includes the Sidney & Lois Eskenazi Hospital, a 315-bed hospital that offers health services to needy patients who are often underserved. But it also includes outpatient facilities for patients who don’t require overnight stays.

And all of these facilities are designed to provide patients with the most enjoyable medical visit possible.

The $754 million campus, for instance, includes an outpatient care center that boasts its own sky farm on its roof. This farm grows fresh produce, some of which is shared with patients.

Eskenazi Health Campus sits on 37 acres on the campus of Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis. The project includes three interconnected buildings: the 315-bed main hospital; the Michael & Susan Smith Emergency Department with 90 treatment rooms and a 16-bed clinical decision unit; and the Eskenazi Health Outpatient Center, with 110 exam rooms.

Paul Strohm, director of healthcare for HOK, said that this campus is just the latest example of how Eskenazi Health is striving to better serve its patients. Strohm said that the hospital system also operates several freestanding health clinics across the Indianapolis area.

HOK designed the new campus, though large, so that it is easy for patients to navigate, Strohm said.

“Everything was centered around how patients arrive on campus and giving them a clear and distinct way of finding where they need to go,” Strohm said. “There is a simplicity to this.”

The campus has a single front door, so patients always know where to enter. That front door, located in the campus’ outpatient treatment center, is aligned with the on-site parking garage, so that visitors immediately know where it is.

“It’s hard to get lost,” Strohm said.

HOK also made sure that the hospital campus itself is a relaxing, pleasant one. There are landscaped gardens, water fountains and clearly marked walkways.

Once patients enter the medical center, they will immediately see a bank of elevators leading to the inpatient and ambulatory care areas of the campus.

“Hospitals can be very confusing,” Strohm said. “We tried to make this campus open and friendly to patients moving through the buildings. We tried to give patients and staff not only pleasant places to look at, but pleasant places to go and spend time.”

This includes an extensive art collection displayed throughout the campus. Strohm said that the hospital campus features about 40 pieces of newly commissioned art along with an existing art collection strategically placed throughout the facility as a way to, as Strohm says, give people a bit of joy.

Natural light is important, too, with windows placed strategically throughout the campus to create a bright and airy feeling, Strohm said.

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