Kaiser Permanente's new San Diego Medical Center may have taken state of the art to new heights with its innovative use of technology and sustainability while staying focused on providing an optimal experience for patients.   

The $850 million, 617,000-square-foot medical center represents the first time Kaiser Permanente incorporated concepts from the Small Hospital, Big Idea hospital design competition it held about six years ago, says Jodie Lesh, the organizations' senior vice president for national delivery system strategy, planning and design, Kaiser Permanente.

Ideas from the competition and other sustainable measures executed by project designers CO Architects in Los Angeles and contractor Hensel Phelps helped the medical center to earn LEED Platinum health care certification, a rarity in the health field.    

“This really is in support of our mission to improve the health of our patients and staff and the community,” Lesh says. “This supports our goal of total health.”

The gleaming, seven-story health facility opened April 25 with 253 large, family friendly, private patient rooms and 39 emergency department (ED) beds. The hospital has a total of 321 licensed beds with the capacity to expand to 461 beds.

Specialty services include an intensive care unit, maternal and child health services, pediatrics, ED, interventional radiology, vascular, thoracic and spine surgery, robotic and image-guided surgery and a neonatal intensive care unit.

“Every design and planning decision we have made since breaking ground on this medical center has been guided by providing an unparalleled patient care experience,” says Jane Finley, senior vice president and area manager, Kaiser Permanente San Diego.

Innovation starts in the patient room where technology affords bedside control over temperature, lighting and window shades. Caregivers can adjust lights and other conditions from a keypad outside the patient room without disturbing the patient.

Each room is equipped with a 75-inch, interactive TV monitor at the headwall that enables patients to access the internet and other entertainment. It also allows patients to conduct video visits with their doctors and view educational health programming.

To reduce falls, certain rooms are equipped with a camera and motion sensors that alert nurses if an at-risk patient is trying to get out of bed. An integrated health care communications system gives physicians and nurses access to key patient information, clinical alerts and a clinical directory. Nurses and auxiliary staff access the system from dedicated smart devices or two-way communication badges; nonclinical requests are routed to appropriate staff so that nurses can devote more time to patient care.

Active chilled beam systems installed directly above each patient bed save energy and provide quiet, constant ventilation. The system is one of many innovative uses of technology and HVAC equipment that is projected to reduce energy costs by 28 percent a year.

The facility uses 100 percent LED lighting and solar panels strategically placed outside the medical center, generate about 3 percent of the energy used. Exterior shading elements help to reduce solar gain and cooling load, Lesh says.  

An on-site trigeneration energy center burns natural gas to generate power, cooling and heating, says Joe Stasney, national director, hospital design and construction, Kaiser Permanente. The trigeneration system has saved approximately $50,000 per month in utility costs so far and is projected to cut carbon emissions by about 140 metric tons annually, he says.

Water use is reduced through the installation of low-flow plumbing fixtures in public spaces and low-water use native landscaping. Nonchemical water treatment at cooling towers is projected to save 5 million gallons of water annually, Stasney says.

Two miles of walking paths in the outdoor healing garden offer a peaceful, communal experience for patients, families and nearby residents, Lesh says.