Take 5 with Dan Morris

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Dan Morris, founding partner of Environments for Health was recently asked to contribute to the Healthcare Design series, Take Five. In this series, Healthcare Design asks leading healthcare design professionals, firms, and owners to tell us what’s got their attention and share some ideas on the subject. Below is the full article, originally published by Healthcare Design.

Dan Morris is founder and managing partner of MorrisSwitzer Environments for Health, which recently merged with Ascension Group Architects and DaSilva Architects to form E4H. Here, Morris shares his thoughts on ED design, the monetary benefits of private patient rooms, and future advancements for materials in healthcare facilities.

1. Privacy, please  

We all know that private patient rooms have a host of benefits, including reduced incidents of healthcare-associated infections (HAIs), patient falls, and patient transfer and medical errors, and each one of these is a potential cost-savings driver. But what about the potential business case that can be made for private rooms not only saving money but actually paying for themselves? Through our firm research, we’ve found that does in fact appear to be true and that the cost savings achieved by converting to private rooms can actually cover the debt service on renovation costs. The question hospitals may have to consider is not whether they can afford to do it but rather can they afford not to.

2. It’s on the surface

We’re on the cusp of a material and technological shift that may largely do away with contaminated surfaces that harbor and transmit bacteria that can lead to HAIs. On the material side, there are biomorphic-inspired surfaces that make it hard for bacteria to attach to a surface. Copper used for high-touch surfaces and copper-infused materials also have excellent bacteria-fighting characteristics. Technological breakthroughs are also on the way in the form of light fixtures that can continuously kill bacteria on surfaces and in the air. It’s an exciting time to be a healthcare design professional, knowing the impact our work will have in making hospitals a truly healing environment.

3. Patient satisfaction shaping ED design

The last place anyone wants to spend time in is the ED waiting room. After all, the reason you’re there is because you thought you had an emergency and waiting for service greatly affects your perceived satisfaction of the medical encounter. Many hospitals are actively expanding their EDs in an effort to accommodate higher throughput, but that extra space needs to be well thought-out to support timely, patient-center care. Separate entrances for walk-ins and ambulance arrival to facilitate triage, testing, and treatment, layouts that adjust to changes in patient volume over a 24-hour cycle, and rapid triage and treatment areas for low-acuity patients are just some of the ideas being implemented.

4. Building a better medical home

What constitutes the perfect setting for the medical home model? There probably isn’t a pat answer, but for us it’s about giving as much attention to designing spaces for collaboration as we do for patient interaction. It’s also about flexibility and making sure that adjacent clinics aren’t so specialized that they can share spaces easily with each other throughout the day. Finally, it’s about designing those aspects into an environment that’s welcoming, soothing, and nonthreatening for the patient so that they can feel comfortable, such as organic colors and textures, comfortable furniture, and natural light.

5. Energy efficiency as a design driver

Hospitals are among the biggest energy consumers in the U.S. According to a report for the U.S. Energy Information Administration large hospitals account for less than 2 percent of all commercial floor space but consume 5.5 percent of the energy used by the commercial sector. Well-designed healthcare facilities can support new care models, energize staff, provide flexibility, and promote health while also being environmentally and operationally sustainable. According to recent reports nearly 2,200 healthcare construction projects have received LEED certification or are seeking it. Healthcare design can help lead the way in reducing energy consumption.

EMMC featured by Healthcare Design

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Thank you to Healthcare Design for highlighting Environments for Health’s work at Eastern Maine Medical Center (EMMC)! Read the full article here.

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EMMC has been a tremendous, long-term client of ours having worked with them on this project from master plan through implementation.

We were proud to see phase 1 open, bringing improved care to the patients and more efficient facilities for the staff. We have a great team continuing phase 2 of the project in Bangor – keep up the good work!

Food in Healthcare

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There is a growing trend in healthcare to make hospitals more hospitable. One element of this trend involves hospitals cooking up food that doesn’t taste like ‘hospital food’, but instead restaurant quality fare.

Many restaurants across the country have embraced the ‘localvore’ movement (cooking with locally sourced ingredients). Chefs find that the practice is healthier (requiring fewer preservatives and processing to the foods), more sustainable (necessitating less travel distances and decreased carbon footprint) and more neighborly (purchasing directly from nearby farms and companies).  Hospitals are taking note and have begun to look local for food sourcing.

This trend is not new to The University of Vermont Medical Center (UVM Medical Center). Through our ongoing relationship with the health network, both as architects and as patients (many of our employees utilize the UVM Health Network for care), we have come to appreciate firsthand the benefits of delicious locally sourced food. As part of their sustainability initiative, the University was one of the first to sign the Healthy Food in Health Care Pledge in 2006, dedicating itself to, “providing local, nutritious and sustainable food”. As well as supporting local farmers, it maintains a roof garden which supplies the cafeteria with fresh blueberries, kiwi and assorted vegetables, when in season.

E4H has worked with UVM Medical Center to support multiple sustainability initiatives, during our recent design of the Robert E. and Holly D. Miller Building  at UVM Medical Center, representatives from Nutritional Services were a part of the design team, contributing input on how to best address the nutritional needs of patients in the acute care setting. We have also worked with department leaders to achieve LEED Gold Certification for the  newly renovated Mother Baby Unit and Clinical Research Center.

It is also interesting to note that Hospitals & Health Networks recently reported Connecticut’s New Milford Hospital saw its patient satisfaction scores rise from the 30th percentile to the 95th percentile after implementation of its Plow to Plate local food sourcing movement. Serving tasty local food may also be good business.

We are happy to partner with forward thinking companies like The University of Vermont Medical Center and are excited to see the trend of locally sourcing food to spread across the country.