If you’ve ever gotten lost on the Mission Health campus, you’ll appreciate one aspect of the state-of-the-art technology in the hospital’s new North Tower: a touch-screen wayfinding system to help patients and visitors alike get from where they are to where they need to be.
The tower, which welcomed its first patients on Oct. 5, was undergoing some final touches as CEO Chad Patrick and Senior Vice President Sonya Greck led a media tour recently.
“It’s like moving into a new house,” said Greck, as workers polished furniture behind her. “There are a million little details.”
The expansive lobby overlooks the mountains, with rocking chairs in front of the huge, floor-to-ceiling windows. Upholstered chairs with side tables complete the lobby furnishings, and view screens scattered about the room will offer educational programming and information about the artists whose works adorn the building’s corridors and rooms.
The 630,000-square-foot, $400 million tower features 176 acute care beds and 44 critical care beds plus a 94-bed emergency department, with 10 of those beds reserved for behavioral health patients. The department also has trauma bays that can accommodate up to eight patients apiece in the event of a disaster.
Each one of the spacious patient rooms, all of which are private and face the mountains, contains a recliner plus a pullout sofa bed, giving family members a comfortable place to sleep if they want to remain with a loved one. All of the waiting rooms also offer mountain views.
“We took a lot of things into consideration to make this a place with a healing atmosphere,” says hospital spokesperson Nancy Lindell. “Every decision was made with that in mind, from the art to the views to the sound-dampening technology in the patient rooms.”
During the planning stage, notes Greck, she traveled with various teams to hospitals across the country to learn how they were using technology to achieve their goals while solving common problems.
“Patients will be tracked from admission to discharge, and as time goes on, the system will help us become more efficient,” says Patrick, standing before a wall of screens. “This is the first system like this to come online anywhere.” The tracking will include information on patients’ whereabouts, such as when they go for surgery or diagnostic testing.
Although you’ll still see whiteboards in patient rooms showing the date and the names of on-duty personnel, all staff members will also wear a badge that, when they enter the room, will transmit identifying information to the 55-inch flat-panel TV opposite the bed. This will let the patient and any visitors present know who’s coming in.
“We know people get confused and anxious in the hospital,” says Greck. “It’s stressful. So we want to do everything we can to make it easier, and knowing who’s coming and going is part of that.”
The high-definition TVs will offer more than 100 channels plus dozens of on-demand movies and video games. Patients can also access educational videos about medical treatments and follow-up care, information about hospital services and cafeteria menus, and can even fill out surveys and offer feedback.
Each person’s electronic health records will be integrated into the system, enabling clinical staff to order patient-specific educational content. Vital signs, test results and medication schedules will be displayed in real time, and information about the assigned care providers, how to prevent falls and discharge planning will be available as well.
Patients’ safety and comfort are paramount. Each room comprises three zones: the patient zone in the center, the visitor zone near the window, and the staff zone closest to the door. Sound-dampening technology will help create a quiet space around the patient, even when a family member is watching television or there’s activity outside the room. The shower in the bathroom has no lip, to minimize the risk of tripping. Finally, each room is equipped with a lift for use when patients need to be moved.
Art promotes healing
More than 650 pieces of art adorn the new facility’s walls, and the view screens offer patients and visitors alike a chance to learn more about the various artists and their work.
“We wanted local art, because there is so much talent in this community, and we know that art has a place in healing,” Lindell explains.
The art on each of the five patient floors expresses a theme based on one of the following elements: earth (mountains), wood (forest), water (rivers, lakes and streams), metal (rocks and minerals) and air (sky and flight).
“When you combine these natural themes with a design that focuses on natural beauty — with a concentration on the beautiful views of the mountains and the bigger windows to allow more natural light — you enhance the healing process,” she continues.
The new tower also includes outdoor spaces that patients, visitors and staff can enjoy: a first-floor courtyard and a large terrace on the third floor. “Standing out here makes a person feel better, promotes well-being and, thus, healing,” Patrick says as he walks onto the terrace. “I imagine I’ll visit here when I need a breath of fresh air.”
In addition to the emergency department’s trauma bays, a covered ambulance bay has space for eight vehicles, with room for even more outside the canopy. The new building also has a helipad for MAMA, the hospital’s airlift program. A special “megavator” elevator can accommodate the patient, the emergency team and any equipment that’s needed.
“They can plug right in and take care of the patient on the elevator,” Greck explains.
The project has even reached back into an existing structure that’s adjacent to the tower, installing a new state-of-the-art kitchen and cafeteria there. Located near the front of the hospital and right beside the new building’s lobby, it faces the mountains as well.
The North Tower’s completion also solves a long-standing logistical issue. “Moving people from the St. Joseph’s building to Mission meant an ambulance ride,” notes Lindell. “That won’t have to happen anymore,” because almost all patients will now be lodged on the Mission side of Biltmore Avenue.
The psychiatric unit will remain at St. Joseph’s, but no decisions have been made about what will go into the now-vacant spaces, notes Patrick.
The hospital began planning for the North Tower in 2011 and broke ground in 2015. “It’s been a long road, but I think the result was worth the effort,” says Greck.