Design of 100-Percent Digital Hospital Creates 'High-Tech,' 'High-Touch' Model

July 13, 2009

Construction is complete on the new, 385,000-square-foot West Chester Medical Center in West Chester, OH, just 18 miles north of Cincinnati. The $116 million acute-care hospital and medical office building complex was designed by the Dallas office of RTKL. Its evidence-based design and high-tech tools support advanced, patient-centered care.

As a new market hospital built to serve a growing and affluent suburb that lacked a nearby hospital, West Chester Medical Center provided an opportunity for a fresh beginning. It had no established operational protocols, legacy, or staff. The owner, Health Alliance of Cincinnati, brought in some of its network’s most innovative clinicians to work with RTKL and develop a new and efficient healthcare environment for the 162-bed, 5-story facility.

“By working with the future doctors and staff of West Chester Medical Center, we found that their overarching vision was for the new hospital to focus on patients and families,” says Michael Hoffmeyer, project manager. “Our design strives to fulfill this vision in two ways. First, the design focuses on a holistic, integrated view of care rather than a model that moves patients between departments. Second, initial patient touch points are clustered around the central rotunda to ease wayfinding and make the hospital seem more intimate and friendly.”

RTKL used retail design principles to enhance customer service and wayfinding. Entering the 2-story, glass-domed rotunda from the covered drop-off area, patients and visitors can easily access lounges and other public spaces. A north-facing glass wall forms the public face of the hospital and offers views both inside and outside that help visitors stay oriented. Off the rotunda, related medical services are clustered together, with diagnostic and treatment areas in a radial arc, imaging located next to the emergency department, and outpatient services easily accessible on the ground floor. The entire hospital emphasizes clear and concise visual organization of space that helps users easily find their destinations. 

Patient-centered care is a priority throughout the tower’s 36-bed floors. All patient rooms are sized to accommodate ICU and bariatric treatment requirements for flexibility of care. A combination of centralized and decentralized nurse work areas provide the advantages of both - decentralized stations allow caregivers to stay close to patients while centralized stations encourage peer consultation and support. Every patient room is near a nurse station so that visual communication and care are enhanced.

Each room provides a platform for bedside electronic charting, which is one element of the hospital’s all-digital capabilities. In fact, technology is used as a tool throughout West Chester Medical Center. Large LCD screens display medical images and data in the operating rooms, while screens throughout the facility display up-to-date surgery status listings to keep families informed. Other screens provide hospital and community events information for staff and visitors. A first-of-its-kind patient-nurse communication system integrates the staff’s wireless VoIP phones into the nurse call system so they can be instantly connected. Infrared locator tags help staff find each other as well as equipment. The nurse call system also utilizes touchscreens in each room, which can be configured in the future to interact with medical records and other patient information.

With so much diagnostic equipment reliant on the hospital’s data network, West Chester Medical Center is designed with an enhanced level of connectivity that addresses not only the bandwidth required for these devices, but also the amount and location of appropriate data ports. This design will allow the hospital to quickly adopt virtually any medical technology, with a growth capacity of approximately double the initial installation.

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