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The Facility Impact in Creating a Provider of Choice by Elevating Patient and Staff Experiences

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Recently, I attended an Advisory Board National Meeting with the theme, “Thriving Under Pressure: Securing future growth in a rapidly restructuring market.” The Advisory Board has been a knowledge house for me since joining the industry and exclusively focusing on healthcare – it combines research, technology and consulting to help healthcare organizations improve performance. Of the topics discussed, “Reigniting the Growth Engine” stood out the most to me. In short, hospitals and health systems are struggling to define a financially sustainable path and are faced with the continued loss of subscribers to the tune of 13 million between 2011 and 2017. Hospital financial performance is declining, yet expenses continue to grow; operating costs are surging past revenue growth and inpatient volumes have stalled. So, what can be done to change the course and reignite the growth engine?

In this session, several approaches were discussed to help organizations sustain revenue growth, including: reducing revenue erosion; diversifying into new revenue streams; and increasing patient loyalty, retention and acquisition. As architects and designers, we can help our healthcare clients grow these strategies through effective facility design. Today, I will focus on the last one – increasing patient loyalty, retention and acquisition. A patient’s experience begins the moment they enter a facility. By creating spaces that help physicians and staff excel with a greater ability to interact with their patients, it in turn, delivers better experiences. Providing a better patient experience improves employee satisfaction, drives down operating costs and builds a strong brand reputation, which increases the share of lucrative patient volumes. While we design to improve operational efficiency, we’re also thinking about the patient’s journey throughout a facility, incorporating tactics to address both.

An example of putting this approach into practice is in the creation of the new award-winning 35,000 sq ft Wisconsin Institute of Urology in Neenah, Wisconsin, that consolidated two existing clinics into a world-class facility. Through an interactive process we began to understand the vision and heart of the organization, directly informing adjacencies, operational improvements, future needs and ultimately, the overall exterior and interior design. Designed with the patient experience in mind, every aspect of the clinic considered the patient journey, their comfort and privacy -- from the initial entry point, to simple wayfinding, to finishes that evoke a calming atmosphere. Patient parking is now closer to the facility, wayfinding is straightforward, and the entry is easily navigable with wood accents that create a warm and approachable feeling.

From the moment visitors enter, they have immediate access to several check-in desks that help reduce confusion and waiting. Natural elements, such as organic patterns, wood, stone and backlit art, create a “respite in the woods” feel, while high-quality finishes establish a hospitality-like experience that can be comforting for patients often dealing with very sensitive issues. To minimize patient steps, special care was placed to streamline flow and separate pre-op and post-op traffic. Two nurse stations serve as centralized hubs to exam rooms, providing views to all, reducing steps for providers and enhancing workflow and efficiency. The reception desk and furniture system can be easily reconfigured to accommodate future technologies and growth.

And better yet, it’s great hearing from your clients that the facility design is improving experiences, like when one of our client physicians remarked, “WIU’s vision was to build a facility that provides a uniquely welcoming, comfortable and valuable experience for our patients and a safe and uplifting environment for our talented teammates. EUA embraced this vision and delivered a fantastic facility.”

Healthcare facilities are created to serve the needs of their communities and are places for healing and support. Through thoughtful design, we create environments that reflect the unique culture and mission of each organization. We take the time to learn what drives our clients and what they truly need, drawing on resources like the Advisory Board to apply best practices backed by research to our planning and design of healthcare spaces. We understand the pressures our healthcare clients continue to be faced with and are passionate about providing innovative and human-centered design solutions that provide physicians and staff with a supportive work environment to increase patient experience and overall satisfaction.

I’d love to hear how healthcare facility design has positively impacted the performance and experiences of your staff and patients (or even your visit). Feel free to send me an email or DM with your thoughts.

Cassidy Wartenweiler,
Project Development

Cassidy works with Project Development in our Healthcare Environments Studio out of our Madison, WI office. In her spare time, she loves seeing live music and renovating her home with her musician husband.

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