Healthy Dose of Hospitality

Long Island Business News
April 19, 2016

As part of its rebranding efforts, Northwell Health (formerly North Shore-LIJ) is seeking to create a cohesive look and feel throughout its facilities, from hospitals and physician offices to imaging centers and urgent care facilities.
“We want there to be elements of design that tie all of the facilities together and speak to the image and branding we’re looking to establish,” said Joe Bolano, vice president of capital project and facility services for the Great Neck-based healthcare system.
As it embarks on redesign efforts, Northwell Health is “looking to identify architectural firms that have both a healthcare and hospitality background,” Bolano said.
Northwell Health’s plan to integrate hospitality sensibilities into its healthcare design is part of a larger industry trend. Increasingly, healthcare providers are trying to create a “concierge” feel in their facilities, not unlike that found at high-end hotels, said Michael Sciara, principal and vice president at John W. Baumgarten Architect in Jericho.
“They’re looking to create a homey feel, with natural wood flooring and textile wall coverings – they’re moving away from the institutional look,” Sciara said. “The thought used to be that if it looked sterile, it was, but now there’s more of a mental therapy aspect – providers want patients to feel at home, to feel at ease.”
At Northwell Health, creating cohesive, consistent elements system-wide is as much about the experience as the physical appearance of the facilities.
“When you go to a Ritz-Carlton brand hotel, the experience tells you you’re at a Ritz-Carlton,” Bolano said. “We want to marry that concept to the healthcare world. We want our clients to experience a consistent, customer-friendly experience in every Northwell Health facility they visit.”
It starts with first impressions, and the healthcare system is looking to establish a “one-to-one dialog with folks when they enter each facility,” Bolano said.
Rather than having the traditional rows of chairs, waiting areas in Northwell Health’s facilities may be reworked to have different seating spaces to accommodate visitors’ individual needs.
“There may be areas where people can sit by themselves, areas where family members can gather together, and if someone comes with a loved one who is having a procedure, that person may want a space to connect to their workplace while they are waiting,” Bolano said.
As part of its rebranding, Northwell Health is placing a greater emphasis on wellness, which will be reflected in the layout of its facilities.
“We are looking to incorporate spaces where we can put in teams centered on the wellness approach – such as including rooms for case managers and social workers,” Bolano said. “It’s not just about seeing the patient and letting them go home – we’re looking to creating a wellness program around their visit.”
For pediatric facilities, architects are working with providers to design spaces that are more inviting and less threatening to children through the creative use of color, Sciara said.
“We spend a lot of time and energy to make our facilities kid-friendly,” said David Biehl, executive vice president and general counsel of Lake Success-based PM Pediatrics, which has 18 urgent care centers, including four on Long Island.
Each facility has its own whimsical theme; the company worked with a muralist to carry it through the design. The Carle Place location has a Wild West theme, featuring murals of wagons and totem poles. North Babylon has a jungle theme, with a reception desk that resembles a thatched roof hut and paintings of animals adorning the walls. The Selden location resembles a medieval castle with stone paneling and suits of armor, while Syosset features a seaside resort feel with murals of carnival rides and a boardwalk scene.
“Our goal was to change the feeling of going to the doctor to make it less threatening,” Biehl said.
From a clinical perspective, Biehl said, the offices are designed so they can be used safely and efficiently.
“All of our centers are designed similarly to an emergency room, with a central nurse’s station with exam rooms forming a horseshoe shape around it. You can look from the station to every patient room, so providers can watch patients at all times,” he said. “We also wanted to create the least amount of wasted movement – our providers see a lot of patients, and we don’t want them walking down long hallways to get to patients.”
In today’s healthcare spaces, green trends of using more natural light – such as through skylights or vision panels in doors that diffuse light into central spaces – and low-VOC paints and flooring products continue to grow.
When designing a space for medical use, architects must “know who they’re designing it for and how the space is going to be used,” Sciara said, noting there are also state and federal regulations driving layout design with safety and patient privacy in mind

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