The St. Louis Children’s Hospital Specialty Care Center received the user-centered award in the 2015 Symposium Distinction Awards presented by Healthcare Facilities Symposium & Expo and FacilityCare. The Specialty Care Center is the only project in the nation to receive this year’s award, which recognizes a “healthcare design project or facility that best reflects and balances the requirements of patients, their family and practitioners.”
The Specialty Care Center is one of only a few stand-alone, comprehensive outpatient facilities in the U.S. focused exclusively on patients up to the age of 21. Prior to designing the new facility, our design team spent a considerable amount of time conducting research to understand how children at different cognitive levels interact with space.
Because most children lack the ability to understand the health benefits of seeing a doctor, the entire process is often stressful and uncomfortable through their eyes, said Jocelyn Stroupe, director of healthcare interiors. To help alleviate this sense of uneasiness, we took the time to understand how children interact with and perceive healthcare spaces, and how the design of the new Specialty Care Center could be leveraged in therapeutic ways.
“The big takeaway from the research and patient profiles was that children are rather sophisticated in the way they understand space and have multi-sensory interactions within environments,” added Natalie Petzoldt, St. Louis health practice leader. “This led us to develop design strategies that moved beyond creating simplistic, static visual environments to creating dynamic environments that engaged multiple age groups.”
Highlighted user-centered features, include:
- To enhance the patient experience, patients are given a special “passport” when they arrive. As they “travel” to different departments throughout the building or undergo tests or procedures, they get their passport stamped, turning a once-dreaded experience into something they can look forward to.
- The building’s theme—imagination and discovery—is evident in every patient space. Splashes of color, playful seating, vibrant artwork, expansive wall murals, and floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking gardens provide opportunities for children to explore and imagine.
- The team surveyed clinicians to gather information about the way children are positioned during treatment in order to understand the placement of graphic elements. Graphic elements on the walls, ceilings, and floors provide positive distractions at the right place at the right time. These graphics are often accompanied by narrative text to engage different age groups.
- Therapy areas incorporate benchmarks and milestones in the design. For example, graphic elements in the flooring are used as destinations for children working to improve mobility.
- Each department or clinic follows a different Missouri-specific theme and has its own distinctive entry portal and color. Iconography matching these themes is used throughout each area, aiding in wayfinding.
- To put children and parents at ease, all therapy and procedure rooms are amply sized for family involvement. The building also includes classroom space for parenting courses, a resource station that connects families to personalized child health information, a café, and a safety stop shop that provides child safety gear and home safety consultations with trained technicians.