How much of a difference does a building make? In the world of health care, a lot.
Hospitals and physician practices today are rethinking the way their facilities are designed. The goal is to improve coordination among clinicians while enhancing patients' experiences. It's a shift that reflects broader trends in health care, as the industry evolves to embrace a more coordinated, team-based approach to care with a focus on patients, efficiency and satisfaction.
Nowhere are these changes more apparent - and needed - than in cancer care. Each year 1.5 million people are diagnosed with cancer in the U.S., making it the second leading cause of death in the country. As the baby boomer generation ages, the incidence of cancer is expected to increase dramatically. Patients expect the highest quality of care. Our research shows that a significant portion of our cancer patients have reported that the consolidation of care to one location is most important in their treatment.
There have been many improvements in cancer treatment and technology in the past two decades. But still there is work that needs to be done to improve care process and patient satisfaction - better systems and structures enhance clinical decision making, which translates into favorable outcomes and enhanced patient experience.
In the past, a cancer patient would see multiple doctors at different locations, resulting in a fragmented treatment process. These specialists worked together by phone and fax, but they could be across town from each other - making it hard for them to meet in person, and inconvenient for patients who had to travel back and forth.
That's an issue that Saint Thomas Cancer Care intends to resolve with an initial focus on the Midtown facility, which is under construction. When it opens, this center will bring many cancer specialists under one roof at 2004 Hayes Street, making it easier for multidisciplinary teams to collaborate and allowing patients to receive the vast majority of their care in one place.
Physicians and staff who will work in this new center were part of the design process. They provided insight on patient care and made recommendations on changes. For example, breast cancer specialists suggested grouping the breast imaging and clinical teams together, to speed care times and enhance patient access to services, from diagnostic testing to surgery, radiation and chemo, if needed, in the same place. They also recommended redesigning patient rooms (to make it easier for physicians to involve patients and their families in the decision-making process) and adding a conference room with video equipment (to facilitate collaboration between care specialists across the Saint Thomas Health system).
This building also will benefit patients by providing well-lit, comfortable spaces, including a garden area, all focused on relaxation and healing, to reduce anxiety and enhance their experience. It's well-documented that physical surroundings are important in health care settings. Our deliberate design not only allows convenience of care in one place - our specialists are able to serve and heal in an updated, seamless environment.
These innovative design changes are focused on the details that contribute to an improved patient journey. Ultimately, approaching the design process in the same way that hospitals and physician practices approach care - as a team, with the patient at the center - can contribute to better care and a better experience for cancer patients, and many others.
John Goodman is V.P. Oncology Service Line at Saint Thomas Health, and Don King is President & CEO at Saint Thomas Midtown & West.