More than $600 million in construction projects either recently completed or under way in four states will feature at least nine new health care facilities built by Mercy, St. Louis, by spring 2015.

To make sure Mercy provides the best possible experience for patients, who better to provide input on new facility design than the patients and community being served?

The health system provides opportunities for patient input on a regular basis by establishing local community advisory groups and other ways to communicate suggestions for each construction project, says Beth Kistner, director, customer experience, at Mercy. More importantly, Mercy has enhanced its facilities by incorporating patients' ideas, she adds.

"In the last three years or so, there has been an explicit and intentional attempt to bring our patients directly into our projects so that we're matching up what we're doing with their needs and expectations," she says.

For example, Shan Carter, Spencer, Okla., who has a rare form of multiple sclerosis, served on the advisory group for the new Mercy Rehabilitation Hospital Oklahoma City.

Being wheelchair-bound for the past two years enabled Carter to offer insight into something as simple, yet critical, as the size of bathrooms in the rehab facility. Many bathroom doorways are now 6 inches wider and bathrooms are 5 inches bigger for easier maneuvering in wheelchairs due to his input.

Patient input also resulted in changes to the labor and birth suites at Mercy Hospital St. Louis so there is proximity between the baby's bed and the mother. Other changes included improving the proximity and size of bathrooms, especially to accommodate patients' using an IV pole, and installing high-end shower jets in patient bathrooms.

Thanks to community input, numerous changes were incorporated at the new neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) in Springfield, Mo. Among them were giving parents the ability to stay with their babies in the NICU and providing a room for family members.