Hospitals look to architecture to promote innovation, efficiency

To increase efficiency and productivity, some hospitals are starting with their buildings' design.

For instance, the Gates Vascular Institute in Buffalo, N.Y.,  has a "club sandwich" architectural design--its bottom floors are a clinical vascular hospital, the top floors are a research and laboratory space run by the University of Buffalo, and in the middle are two stories dedicated to promoting interaction between those who work on the top and bottom floors, according to Wired.

The institute features "collision zones" outside of labs and operating rooms, where doctors and researchers can have impromptu sitdowns and compare notes. Other architectural choices, such as interior windows that overlook communal areas and an open staircase, are designed to create an atmosphere of openness, the article states.

For the most part, medical centers and research facilities stay separate, and traditional hospitals generally limit different specialists to separate floors, according to the article. However, this separation of specialties and disciplines can compromise communications between those spheres, said Mark Whitely of Cannon Design, one of the institute's lead designers.

"When you have buildings and people separated, we call that hopeful collaboration," Whitely told Wired. "What we wanted to create in this building is deliberate collaboration, where if you have a thought you can go do it."

The Owensboro Health Regional Hospital in Owensboro, Ky., is similarly looking toward the future with a more efficient design, according to Healthcare Design Magazine. Originally built in 1938, the hospital has since dramatically renovated and placed the heart center and operating rooms on the floor directly above the emergency department to speed up patient transfers. The hospital also has added features, such as separate elevators and corridors for staff and equipment, and has upgraded its HVAC and emergency power systems, according to the article.

Even though commercial construction dropped 4 percent across industries in 2011, it grew 0.9 percent in the healthcare sector as hospitals modernize their design to be safer, cheaper and more patient-friendly, FierceHealthcare previously reported.  

 To learn more:
- here's the Wired article
- read the Healthcare Design article