How Grand Rapids is building the future of healthcare

Across the country, advancing technologies, the Affordable Care Act, and a consumer-driven healthcare market have motivated those delivering medical services to take a new look at how they design their facilities—everything from primary care practices to high-tech radiology services.
Across the country, advancing technologies, the Affordable Care Act, and a consumer-driven healthcare market have motivated those delivering medical services to take a new look at how they design their facilities—everything from primary care practices to high-tech radiology services. This trend holds true in the Greater Grand Rapids Area, where Mercy Health, Spectrum Health, and Metro Health–University of Michigan Health have all designed new facilities that not only keep pace with current technologies and medical practice, but also provide flexibility for an ever-changing industry.

Brett Butler“It’s really about how to integrate technologies…to be able to respond on a real-time basis to real-time needs taking place,” says Brett Butler, director of facilities, construction, and real estate for Metro Health. “How do we build flexibility for the future of medicine and where it is headed? Not only from a physical space but in bringing the practice to the patient, integrating the patient in whatever form or accessibility will be available in the future.”

Metro Health Hospital in Wyoming has recently completed a new pulmonary department; a new neurology suite as a component of its new comprehensive stroke program; and, a new ear, nose and throat clinic. These will accommodate the additional practitioners Metro Health has recruited from its affiliate partner, University of Michigan Health.

“Since we hung that big yellow M on the side of the building, we’ve had to provide options to the people in our community from a much more robust provider field,” Butler says. “UM Health is actively recruiting specialists in a number of categories.”

Metro Health Hospital’s new gastroenterology suite began serving existing providers as well as new UM recruits in August. And, a new fluoroscopy suite will accommodate recently acquired, advanced CT imaging equipment. Opened Nov. 6, an expanded Cascade primary care practice will bring patients on the other side of town closer access to internal medicine practitioners.

As top considerations, Metro Health seeks to design spaces that reflect a home-like environment rather than a traditional clinical environment (think: comfortable sectionals and warm colors vs. cold blues and office chairs). Next, sustainable design and development leads every new build or renovation.

“Moving on from those two building blocks is the care and practice of medicine itself, which is dictated largely by the service for which we are creating space, from specialties with specific, extra requirements to family practices, which have more freedom in design,” he notes. (For example, the fluoroscopy suite was designed to accommodate large, new equipment.)

Metro Health Hospital

Mercy Health has new building projects slated for primary care, lab and radiology, pharmacy, and urgent care facilities in Hudsonville and North Muskegon. Before the architects at TowerPinkster Architects & Engineers began working on the first draft, they joined project managers from Triangle construction and Mercy Health staff for a series of visioning sessions that took place over three months. Mercy Health hosted the sessions where physicians, clinicians, and business-office staff brainstormed what kinds of spaces would most efficiently support their daily routines while delivering optimal care to their patients.

Roberta Jelinek“We used the “Three Ps”: production, preparation, and process. It takes the process flow of how you do you work, the actual steps, to create a flow map and achieve the work in the least steps for the staff [in a way that is] ideal for the patient,” says Roberta Jelinek, vice president of business development at Mercy Health. “This designed the building by thinking about how we will use it, keeping process in mind with the patient at the center.”

Mercy Health’s new Hudsonville site will serve its growing market in eastern Ottawa County. The new facility will include a lab, pharmacy, X-ray, and ultrasound facilities. In the North Muskegon area, a large multi-service facility will bring together three primary care practices along with an on-site lab, pharmacy, X-ray machines, and after-hours urgent care in one location.

“We will have a presence in the neighborhood that’s a little broader instead of making everyone come downtown for everything,” Jelinek says. “We’re investing in ambulatory care. The better we do there, the fewer patients will have to come downtown to the hospital.”

Incorporating another evolution in design, the new Mercy Health facilities include more spaces for collaboration. Team rooms provide a space where physicians, medical assistants, nurses, urgent care diagnosticians, and other providers can get together to discuss and efficiently execute patients’ care plans. “Thinking about healthcare delivery from a team standpoint helps speed and efficiency in delivery of care,” Jelinek says.

Jelinek also concurs with Metro Health’s Butler that new healthcare facilities need to be flexible and able to grow with future delivery models. A key design strategy—open floor plans—can be adapted to respond to these models. “We have to look at our builds in a different way—less drywall and more modular,” she says.

At Spectrum Health, new, 2,700-square-foot Jacob and Lois Mol Cardiovascular Simulation Center (CV Sim Center) at the Meijer Heart Center exemplifies flexibility for the future as well as spaces for collaboration in its design.

The CV Sim Center allows physicians, residents, and other healthcare providers to simulate realistic procedures for structural heart, heart catheter, and vascular surgical interventions. Before working on a patient, physicians can make a 3-D model, based on the patient’s CAT scan, and make a practice run on the procedure. In addition, the center provides training for medical students and practice in new techniques for those already engaged in cardiovascular specialties.

The Cardiovascular Simulation Center.

The CV Sim Center had its grand opening August 31, 2017 but, according to its director, Dr. Robert Cuff, it’s been a busy place since its completion last July, when students and staff began training with various simulations. “For technical fields, like surgical, there is a movement towards improving patient safety. In the old paradigm, you learned by having someone standing there helping you learn a procedure by doing it on a patient,” he says. “These simulators allow a resident to practice 50 cases in a month over and over again without any harm coming to any patient.”

When students and staff do trainings, the CV Sim Center’s large classroom can be reconfigured as two smaller classrooms, each with full audio-video capacity. A wet lab provides space to store and examine specimens and tissues used in simulations, e.g., pig and sheep hearts. To encourage collaboration, its lounge area is open to medical students, residents, and other staff as a space to relax or work on projects. Conversations and relationships built here support successful teamwork on the patient floors and in the operating room. “You are going to collaborate your entire career so you might as well do that from the time you start training,” Cuff says.

Dr. Robert CuffGoals of the Center include reducing patient medical errors and adverse events, especially for complex and rare procedures. “Airplane pilots spend hours in simulators every year to keep their skills up,” Cuff says. “Here, we get to replicate problems we hope we will never see, scenarios, we hope we don’t have to encounter. But, the first time it occurs, we have experience that allows us to handle it.”

Spectrum will also use the CV Sim Center as a means to reach out to local schools, provide student han experience, on-site workshops, and opportunities to job-shadow physicians and staff—inspiring future generations to pursue a career in medicine. Chances are, they may practice their careers in the future-forward healthcare facilities being built in West Michigan today.

Spectrum Health, Mercy Health, and Metro Health–University of Michigan Health have utilized collaboration in design, sustainable building practices, and flexible structures in each of their new facilities. Their investment will yield solid healthcare gains well into the future. Butler concludes, “I’ve lived here all my life. Just to watch how healthcare is coming forward in our growing community—that’s only going to continue to grow—is exciting.”

“Constructing the future” is a new 12-part series from Rapid Growth that will explore issues facing, and related to, West Michigan’s construction industry and the numerous organizations, trends, and innovations seeking to create positive advances in our community. The series is sponsored by Triangle Associates, a West Michigan-based construction company that provides construction management, design/build services, general contracting, integrated project delivery, and more to projects locally and across the country.

A working writer since 1992, Estelle Slootmaker is happiest writing about social justice, wellness and the arts. Stelle serves as communications manager for Our Kitchen Table and chairs the City of Wyoming Tree Commission (The Tree Amigos). You can contact Stelle at [email protected] or via her website,
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