Froedtert & The Medical College of Wisconsin, Milwaukee, spent a year researching the design of its new $95 million clinical cancer center and it shows. The glass-skinned building lets in lots of light and nature views. It’s also easy for patients to navigate. “We wanted a space that would help us provide care around the patient,” says John Balzer, vice president of facility planning and development at Froedtert & Community Health, the health system that partnered in the cancer center, which opened in May.
“In our customer survey, we found that people were overwhelmed by distances,” says Bruce Campbell, M.D., an oncology head and neck surgeon that served on a design committee for the facility. Patients were traveling to various locations in the hospital for different appointments. The new center solves that by combining all 13 cancer service lines in one building. The services are divided among four clinics on one level, encompassing 52 exam rooms. Another way the designer helped patients was to build the 446,000-square-foot center on top of a below-ground parking facility, so visitors are only a short elevator ride away from health care providers.
Through focus groups and surveys, Balzer says the designers learned that visitors wanted “getaway” areas, such as niches where they can access the Internet with laptops.
“We wanted people to have choices,” notes Balzer, such as a public setting like the Bistro, the cancer center’s eatery; or two chairs in an alcove. Although the facility does have some larger waiting areas, the furniture is arranged in conversational settings, getting away from the “bus station” setup of chairs in a row.
Patients also have choices in the hospital’s 35,000-square-foot infusion area, which faces scenic wetlands. A cancer patient receiving chemotherapy can select among three different venues: an open area that provides a social setting, a private room, or a secluded space away from abundant natural light, which can sometimes irritate chemotherapy patients.
The center also made efforts to appeal to staff, including wetland views for their lounge and meeting space. Because Froedtert wants the space to work well for multidisciplinary teams, it provides space for these staffers to meet.
The medical college also is accommodated in the building with conference space and the fifth floor, which has administrative offices and space for “dry research,” for which faculty analyze data on clinical trials and treatments.
Balzer also notes the building planning took some pragmatic turns. Originally, designers wanted to have a soaring glass atrium reaching the fifth story. “Soon we realized that’s a lot of space you can only look at,” he notes. By cutting the atrium height to the second floor, the designers were able to add a story of shelled out floor that will come in handy. The space the center is currently using is expected to reach capacity in 2012, according to Campbell.
This article first appeared in the January 2009 issue of HFM magazine.
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