There’s no such thing as an easy challenge in healthcare. As health organizations seek to improve care and health outcomes, reduce costs, keep up with rapid innovation, etc. – they’re also being pushed to achieve big goals within less real estate than ever before.

University of Minnesota, Ambulatory Care Center

Project: University of Minnesota

University of Minnesota Health (UMN Health) sees this challenge as an opportunity to rethink and improve how healthcare is delivered. Set to open its Clinics and Surgery Center in early 2016, UMN Health has created a facility that will accommodate 40% more annual visits despite being 25% smaller than its predecessor. That said, UMN Health isn’t solely focused on efficiency as its new facility is designed to enhance the patient experience, improve care and health outcomes while also creating new opportunities for staff training and collaboration. UMN Health believes it has created a future-focused center that will strengthen its brand and market position in the years ahead.

Creating a cutting-edge facility capable of achieving these outcomes is no simple effort. It required months of planning and collaboration between UMN Health and CannonDesign. Here are three key areas we focused on to create an ambulatory care center up to the challenge.

Defining the Optimum Patient Experience

One of the first things the UMN Health team realized is that it would need to approach this design effort differently than others in the past. Rather than mold a patient experience to meet an existing building framework, they stepped back and defined the ideal patient experience and then created a building that could make it a reality. Our team participated in cross-functional, inter-professional team workshops with more than 250 UMN Health providers and staff to design new workflows and processes for the different phases of the patient visit. Specifically, we focused on pre-appointment management, patient arrival and check-in, in-clinic experience and patient departure and experience.

Everyone’s collective creative energy helped us take multiple value streams and find opportunities for efficiency, collaboration and redundancy elimination across the board. Ultimately, UMN Health walked away with one future-focused path for the optimal patient experience. This path outlines how patients will engage the organization and its facility from the outset of illness or injury through treatment. Bringing everyone together in this manner enabled UMN Health to knock out the silos that often impede such visioning and achieve a unified vision for its future that focuses on patient experience.

Eliminating Everything That Doesn’t Add Value

One of the keys to maximizing efficiency is eliminating everything that doesn’t add value. Unfortunately, the historical precedents that have driven health facility design over time weren’t calibrated to achieve efficiency. So much of the patient journey – checking in, completing forms on paper, waiting in the lobby, waiting in the exam room, waiting to cash out – simply doesn’t add value to the experience.

The new ambulatory care center eliminates these wasteful efforts by modeling itself after best practices from the world of retail. The UMN Health Clinics and Surgery Center has no waiting rooms and check-in desks that we’re akin to seeing in such environments. Instead, the facility takes inspiration from Apple Stores. When patients arrive at the center, they’ll be greeted by a staff member who can check them in, find their exam room and notify the corresponding medical staff of their arrival all via handheld mobile technology. On the other end, this mobile technology also helps staff cash patients out, schedule follow-up appointments, send prescriptions to the in-house pharmacy and call for the patient’s car.

Borrowing Strategy from Corporate Workplaces

One of the biggest weaknesses of traditional health and research facilities is that they’re bogged down by office space that usually takes up 30 to 40% of a facility’s real estate despite being unoccupied 90% of the time. With doctors and researchers spending most of their days in exam rooms with patients or in labs with their studies, the model is remarkably ineffective.

UMN Health looked to key trends from corporate workplaces to help them think differently about how they efficiently allocate such real estate. The center has significantly fewer private office spaces than other facilities of its type and none of them are assigned to specific individuals. Instead, the spaces can be reserved for those needing to have private conversations or do quiet, focused work. Additionally, the center is filled with open, collaborative workplaces at various points where staff can sit down, plug in and complete tasks while they’re on the go. Not only does this conserve real estate, but it also makes staff more efficient as it eliminates tedious trips back and forth to office space throughout the day and allows them to work anywhere, anytime in the facility.

UMN Health’s new Clinics and Surgery Center is a facility focused on the future of health delivery. It recognizes that being asked to do more with less is much more an opportunity for innovation and improvement than cause for concern.

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