Community Partnerships Improve Children’s Health Care Design in Chattanooga

By Ana Pinto-Alexander

Children’s Hospital at Erlanger-Kennedy Outpatient Center was conceived and designed to serve and represent the greater Chattanooga area so HKS and Erlanger Health invited the community into the design process so that local stakeholders could see their influence on a health care facility dedicated to their children.

Community meetings and involvement helped shape the 90,000 square-foot facility, and as the public rallied around the outpatient center and Erlanger’s transparent approach, they observed how funding was dispersed and how the design evolved.

 

 

Speaking to this strategy’s success, more than 6,000 people helped fundraise the Center, making it the largest philanthropic effort in Chattanooga’s history. From the Kennedy Foundation’s $5 million donation to more modest individual contributions, this facility is a product of Chattanooga’s warm partnership with HKS.

“The project truly has built upon layers of voice, vision, and expertise from the people all around who cherish and celebrate the wellness of children,” said Younghui Han, the HKS interior designer for the project. “Also, the center was founded on the history and beauty of local nature. HKS has been a vital connector of bridging the vision to the reality.”

 

Indeed, key aesthetic drivers are rooted in local inspiration and Chattanooga’s beautiful landscape. The building’s form reminds of Chattanooga’s horizontally striated mountains, with key lookouts carved out for playful moments along the patient’s journey through the building. Each floor has a theme drawn from familiar elements found in and around the city, with interactive discovery elements that engage children.

The Tennessee Valley Railroad Museum provided a 19th-century locomotive to capture the imagination of children and their families as they approach the front door, while works from local artists are another way health care is made familiar and comforting. On the third floor, young patients can spark their imaginations as they play in the cab of a retired fire pumper donated by the Chattanooga Fire Department.

Located at the corner of 3rd Street and Hampton Avenue, the hospital fills a void in Chattanooga’s downtown by serving as the gateway to a wellness and innovation district. The Center encourages the area’s economic well-being to attract the best medical talent from around the world.

The children’s care center consolidates 21 specialties, including the region’s only certified pediatrics genetics counseling. The Healthy Eating Active Lifestyle Center addresses pediatric obesity. Focused on operational efficiency and improving the family and patient experience, the Center’s design supports the complex needs of both families and physicians.

 

New facilities helped our client change the delivery of patient care while centralizing Erlanger’s children’s health services. This unified approach offers more convenient access to patients, and treatment previously given in independent clinics for specific diseases, such as diabetes and cancer, are being offered in an on/off stage format that removes much of the building’s foot traffic from patients’ sight. Electronic registration and kiosks also expedite the intake process.

This more flexible delivery model helps Erlanger deliver care more effectively during patient surges, such as flu season. Health care providers can rely on the space to flex so they can borrow exam rooms from other pods when necessary. The clinic layout accommodates multiple specialties and enables flexible scheduling. All beds are adult sized to accommodate shifts in demand and children’s services on the tower’s higher levels while adult care is on bottom.

Because of its improved and expanded facilities, Erlanger officials expect the hospital to treat nearly 100,000 patients a year.

Ana Pinto-Alexander

Ana Pinto-Alexander is Director of Health Interiors and Principal at HKS. She leads the firm’s health interior design practice globally, and her extensive travel combined with her childhood in Colombia, South America, give her a unique global perspective. In 2019, Ana was named one of the 25 most influential people in healthcare by Healthcare Design.