At a time when there’s a lot of talk about evidence-based design in health care, Lakeland HealthCare has taken an unusual approach to the idea. Instead of just talking about the idea, it’s actually implementing evidence-based design.
Lakeland is a non-profit, community owned health care system located in Berrien County in southwest Michigan. Since the late 1970s, the organization has grown through a series of mergers. Today, it has serves patients through 40 access points with over 400 physicians and other providers offering a wide range of specialties.
At Lakeland, adoption of evidence-based design is part of a journey that began 20 years ago, says Mike Kastner, director, building services for Lakeland. Evidence-based design uses research results to shape a facility; the new facility is then studied once it’s in operation to evaluate whether it is achieving the goals laid out for it. An important part of the process is identifying metrics that are used as criteria in two ways: upfront as design guidelines, and then after the fact as yardsticks for research.
The move to evidence-based design started thanks to a fortunate coincidence. As Kastner’s team was developing a master plan for Lakeland, the organization’s CEO read a book about the important role that the physical environment has on healing. Kastner wound up hiring the book’s author, Jain Malkin, as part of the team that developed the master plan.
But the master plan was only a first step. Kastner’s team then had to translate that idea into physical reality. He and the top leaders of the organization flew to hospitals around the country to see examples of healing environments — from the use of natural light and plants to music in the parking lot.
“We got it,” says Kastner. “We started to incorporate that into our projects right away.”
The design of a new patient bed tower for Lakeland Regional Medical Center, St. Joseph, occupied in March 2009, marked the first time that Lakeland used formal evidence-based design techniques. Before the design was started, measurements were taken on key metrics for older patient floors, like noise levels at nurses’ stations and at the patient rooms farthest from those stations, and the distances nurses had to walk, whether to reach those farthest rooms or just to get medical supplies. With that data in hand, the design team set to work.
The new tower shows the influence of evidence-based design. Nearly all of the patient rooms are private, and those rooms have bigger windows than the older patient rooms. The distances nurses have to walk are reduced. And the patient areas are quiet. To reduce noise, Lakeland invested in better acoustical ceilings around nursing stations and installed vibration absorbers on mechanical equipment.
“We spent the money to take the noise out of the spaces,” says Kastner. “When you walk through the spaces, you feel it.”
At Lakeland HealthCare, Mike Kastner Uses Research to Shape Facilities
Evidence-Based Design Part of Lakeland’s Far-Sighted Approach