Involving Stakeholders in Healthcare Design to Improve Care Outcomes

Within the area of healthcare design, facilities are moving away from the traditional treatment model to inculcate a focus on wellness. This provides a more holistic type of care that promotes healthy living and recovery across the patient’s entire treatment journey. Delivering effective care is no longer simply treating ailments, but also supporting and empowering patients with the information and tools needed to make valuable treatment and lifestyle decisions. In terms of design practice, this means providing space within treatment facilities for ancillary services and amenities that promote health and wellness in a calming and pleasant environment that is designed as such to be conducive to healing. Involving stakeholders in the healthcare design is important in creating a facility that prioritizes not only treatment outcomes, but the patient and staff experiences too. Soliciting feedback from patients, their families, and staff helps to build efficiencies into the facility and leverages the built environment as a facilitator of quality care.

Design Considerations for Healthcare Facilities

One of the first design considerations for healthcare facilities is the co-location of care services to aid care coordination and convenience. This helps patients consolidate their scheduled appointments into single visits. The co-location of treatment units and the inclusion of ancillary health services helps lower the barriers to care, giving patients access to the resources they need in a single location. Facilities need to be easy to navigate but with an emphasis on reducing transit times, as the goal should be to bring care to the patient wherever possible. 

As well as a shift in focus towards wellness, we are also seeing an increasing need to deliver care in outpatient settings as demand for bed space and in-patient resources grows. Dave Cato, Chief Administrative Officer for outpatient services at Lee Health, Coconut Point, provides insight on his facility’s outpatient philosophy: “we feel that 85 to 90 percent of patients’ needs can be taken care of without having an acute care bed onsite.”

Involving Stakeholders in the Healthcare Design Process

Soliciting Feedback From Patients, Families, and Staff

Stakeholder feedback can be a powerful tool in optimizing the built environment of healthcare facilities. The design of facilities can be used to address the daily challenges faced by clinical staff as well as to dignify and empower patients. HKS, a global design firm, comments on the under-leveraging of the built environment in acute care spaces, noting that “the power of the physical environment in these different [treatment] phases to be a non-pharmacological intervention, a passive member of the care team, and a constant friend to the patient, is untapped.” 

Utilizing feedback from stakeholders is an effective way to maximize the usefulness of the built environment. The design team working on the Lee Health at Coconut Point center obtained feedback from 80+ staff and patients in order to ensure wellness was at the facility’s core, and to create a visitor experience more akin to retail than healthcare. These groups of stakeholders were consulted on the best placement of health services, optimal location of access points, the flow of patients and staff, as well as the flow of information. This feedback is essential in remedying potential care bottlenecks ahead of time, reducing staff churn and creating a more user-friendly environment.

Overcoming Operational Difficulties

A common issue in facility design concerns storage space – firstly, that supply rooms are commonly too small and too few in number. To compound this issue, they are often located inconveniently in relation to the point of care. This leads to staff stocking necessary medical equipment in hallways and corridors and taking more supplies than are immediately necessary to reduce the number of trips to and from storerooms. Staff may also fill up carts with supplies to reduce the amount of care disruptions resulting from trips to storage rooms. While perhaps a necessary evil to ensure care is delivered smoothly and without interruption, the presence of equipment and supplies in corridors and hallways represents a hazard and creates inefficiencies. 

Creating Versatile Spaces

Healthcare Design Magazine cites the FleXX framework for healthcare facility design, which is based on the principles of versatility, modifiability, convertibility, and scalability. This framework focuses on solving operational difficulties  ahead of time through consulting stakeholders during the design process. Designers should be looking to provide solutions to user-centered questions when considering room layout: how do patients feel when entering the space? What sets of needs must rooms meet? Perhaps most importantly – how many staff need to work here at any given time, and what supplies do they need on hand? Considering these questions when designing facilities helps to build in features that enhance ergonomics, patient privacy and safety, staff efficiency, and improve overall care outcomes.

Space versatility should be a key consideration during the design process – such as creating fluid multipurpose zones which can replace conventional waiting rooms, allowing visitors to work, interact, shop, and self-educate while waiting. Spaces can be made modifiable through the use of adjustable workstations, mobile carts, and rolling partitions to give users the agency to quickly change a space when needed. Stakeholders mention movable partitions, modular or mobile furniture, and standardization as the most useful features in the creation of modifiable spaces. Convertibility refers to the ability to repurpose the infill of a building to perform a new function, such as converting existing outpatient rooms into administrative or examination rooms. Scalability, finally, refers to the ability to grow or shrink a facility through minor or major renovations. The level of operational scalability is determined largely by the degree of convertibility and modifiability built into spaces. The features of versatility and modifiability are designated as the most important by stakeholders due to their economy, and the agency they give users to alter a space to fit specific needs. For example, creating a modifiable sensory environment where users have control over privacy, lighting, and temperature is a way to quickly optimize the space for an individual patient’s needs.

Involving Stakeholders in Healthcare Design to Plan for the Present and the Future

“Often, it is not the physical state of the building that limits the effectiveness of care but the way in which the patient is processed through the space that inhibits an improved patient experience.” The National Library of Medicine discusses operational and logistical efficiencies built into the design of healthcare spaces with the implementation of stakeholder feedback. This helps to innovate during the design process, thereby future-proofing investments and keeping the operational machine well oiled.

For instance, at Guy’s Hospital in London, patient check-in was identified as a potential bottleneck for patients. To reduce waiting times and give patients a degree of independence a self check-in system was implemented, whereby patients can scan themselves into the facility using a pre-distributed barcode. Geo-tracking is also in use to ensure staff can locate patients for appointments, reducing transit and waiting times. Furthermore, it was decided that linear accelerator radiotherapy machines would be housed on the second floor. This catalyzed a relocation of the treatment space away from its previous dark basement environment onto the same floor as bright, well-lit consultation and waiting areas. To allow for changes to the hospital’s treatment practices further down the line, the features were built into the space to enable redesignation in the future. Instead of building shielding into the fabric of the radiotherapy treatment spaces with structural concrete, it was installed as prefabricated, demountable, and stackable concrete and lead blocks.

As well as this, removable panels were used in the construction of the building’s façade to ensure easy passage of machinery during the initial installation, and smooth ingress and egress of any future upgrades. This allowed machinery to be lifted into and out of the building in pieces – these efficiencies were made possible by involving healthcare stakeholders in a thorough consultation process during the design period. After construction was completed, research was continued on whether the design features actually improved the patient experience and provided operational benefits to staff. Other actionable feedback concerned easy patient access to outdoor landscaped spaces and waiting areas with views of the outdoors. The minimization of long, institutional corridors was also flagged by stakeholders, and influenced the design of radiotherapy and outpatient waiting areas.

Better Healthcare Design leads to Better Outcomes for Stakeholders

In conclusion, the outcomes of modern healthcare design can be substantially improved by stakeholder involvement in the planning process. This helps to incorporate the views and knowledge of regular users of the space, thereby working to build efficiencies into the physical environment and streamlining workflows for staff, while creating a more pleasant experience for patients. This feedback can prove invaluable in helping to future-proof investments and enhance care quality.

Champion Chair’s Solutions for Every Step of the Treatment Journey

Here at Champion Chair, we design products to meet your patients wherever they are on their treatment journey. Care quality, empowerment, and safety are fundamental to all of our products. Contact us today to find out how Champion Chair can help your facility provide an outstanding care experience.