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Neighbors Emergency Centers are offering medical care in a setting unlike any other emergency department in the nation. A first in the industry, the new 8,430-square-foot center — to be opened in Texarkana, Texas, in July 2016 — places care services in the front — not the back — of the center, providing a transparent, patient-centric experience.
As patients arrive at the emergency department, they will not be greeted by administrative staff members. Caregivers – including physicians and nurses – are located at the reception desk, allowing a first-sight triage and assessment of patients. Critically ill or injured patients are taken directly into treatment rooms. The examination areas are in close proximity, instead of being hidden in the back.
Taking Cues from Other Industries
When researching the new approach, Neighbors took cues from other industries outside of healthcare, including hospitality venues, as well as retail outlets and restaurants, while still providing the necessary privacy required in a clinical setting.
“Open-environment concepts have revolutionized the restaurant industry, as well as other service industries such as retail, automotive and hotel check-ins,” said Setul G. Patel, MD, MBA, FAAEM, CEO, Neighbors Health System, Inc. “Open-kitchen configurations – from fast food to fine dining establishments – provide a transparent experience for patrons. Major hotel chains are using open peer-to-peer kiosks to register new guests. These are tenets used in the design of our new emergency room.”
Neighbors Emergency Centers include a contemporary-designed hospitality bar with amenities found in hotels, including a snack display, a fully stocked beverage refrigerator, a coffee station and charging stations for electronic devices. Similar to a hotel lobby, there are a variety of seating spaces — from intimate one-on-one gathering nooks to family-filled gathering areas. The Neighbors Wall is a place where community-supported events are proudly displayed, with generous lounge seating.
Lean Design and Lean Practice
Neighbors also researched the way people navigate an emergency department. “During a medical emergency, patients want to be in front of caregivers (physicians, nurses) as soon as possible,” Patel said. “From Lean theory, we can safely say that any steps and time that is between the patients and caregiver constitutes time not well spent. With this perspective, the only answer was to locate the physician and nurses at the front door. If the caregiver greets the arriving patient and immediately starts the care delivery process, we have successfully increased our efficiency by decreasing wait times and optimizing our resources to deliver extraordinary care.”
The exception to this is when the center admits a critically ill patient or a patient under resuscitation requiring further privacy. The proposed design includes a movable partition to isolate the critical care space from the lower acuity exam rooms and lobby, separated by a secondary nurse station and a critical patient care area from the open front-door lobby.
“We cleared our minds during this exercise, removing our current biases and knowledge of traditional roles of all ED personnel,” said Dave Vincent, principal, HKS, Inc. “The entire plan and design of the emergency center contributes to a simple and effective patient flow, minimizing wait times and getting patients and their families into treatment rooms quickly, so they can interact with the full-time physician and nursing staff.”
A Thoughtful, Bold, Branded Design
Knowing the center is used day and night, the design focused on a number of striking elements. The emergency center is wrapped in glass and perforated aluminum metal panels. The panels subtly reflect their surroundings in a diffused pattern to highlight a sensitivity to place, while at night, they transform to a glowing lantern effect, presenting a reassuring destination for those seeking care and treatment.
A prominent, red-metal-panel wing wall — proudly displaying the Neighbors Emergency Center 24-hour logo — highlights the building from all directions, while framing the main entrance to the facility and the all-glass canopy covering drop-off and pickup traffic.
The architectural design enables the provision of emergency care, providing an environment that enhances work and healing. The use of natural materials, extensive daylighting, and hospitality-inspired surfaces and textures is intended to contribute to alleviating stress and concern for patient and families, while the incorporation of modern technology promotes an advanced and progressive environment.
“This is a fundamental culture change in how we operate our existing centers and how emergency departments across the country operate today,” Patel said. “With the new design, we can accomplish every aspect of our care delivery, including concern of the critically ill, privacy matters, infection control and enhanced patient flow.”
HKS, Inc. is ranked among the top healthcare architectural firms in the world by Modern Healthcare and BD World Architecture. Operating from 25 offices worldwide, HKS focuses on innovative healthcare design, process and delivery. The firm’s award-winning healthcare architecture includes 3,500 unique projects representing 157,000 beds and 367 million square feet. HKS projects have garnered numerous awards and coverage in worldwide publications. The firm’s healthcare specialists are highly respected international speakers. For more information, contact Trish Martineck at firstname.lastname@example.org.