Area hospitals upgrade facilities to manage growth and meet changing demands in the healthcare industry

A boom in business has led to a boom in construction at hospitals across central Ohio.

Facility renovation and expansion projects abound, driven by the need to keep pace with growing populations, increasing demands in service and advancing science.

"There are a number of issues that lead into construction," said Cliff Lehman, senior vice president of member services and operations at the Ohio Hospital Association. "Some of it is these facilities are getting older."

Another key consideration: Meeting or exceeding patients' expectations. Hospitals set out to provide high-level care and measure their own success not only by patient outcomes but also by patient satisfaction, Lehman said.

Years ago, it wasn't uncommon for hospitals to have four-bed wards and a community shower down the hall, Lehman said. "There were very few private rooms. Most of them were semi-private," he said. "Now, everybody wants a private room."

Private rooms help to prevent the spread of infection and to protect patient confidentiality, Lehman added, so many hospitals are now adapting to meet the demand for single occupancy.

Rooms also have gradually increased in size, allowing more space for equipment and patients, as well as the family members who accompany them.

Hospitals design every detail, from lighting to furniture to the placement of TVs and electrical outlets, with comfort and function in mind for patients and staff, said Kyle Rooney, vice president and general manager of Turner Construction Company in Columbus. The company is currently constructing the $1.1 billion expansion at the Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center-the largest project in the university's history.

"No different than a mall is competing for shoppers and an office building is competing for tenants, a hospital is competing for patients, and the design, accessibility and experience provided by the physical building is an important component to attracting patients," Rooney said.

The hospital-construction boom isn't unique to Columbus, he added. "We're currently building hospitals in Cleveland, in Toledo, in Cincinnati. There are healthcare projects all over the state."

Patients have been the "number one priority" throughout the development and design of the Wexner Medical Center's new cancer- and critical-care tower, on track to open later this year, said Dr. David E. Schuller, vice president of medical center expansion and outreach and CEO emeritus of the Arthur G. James Cancer Hospital and Richard J. Solove Research Institute.

The design of the 21-story facility uniquely incorporates research labs and education spaces into patient-care areas "to facilitate and enhance our research," Schuller said.

"That has been the vision and the mission-to provide superb care that is differentiated by our research and education."

Science also has influenced some of the building's design elements. Each patient room will be private with an abundance of natural light, and the entire building will be filled with music. Research has shown that natural light helps to decrease patients' hospital stay, use of pain medication and situational depression, while an abundance of music has proven to have therapeutic benefits, Schuller said.

At Mount Carmel St. Ann's in Westerville, a new main entrance with a concierge desk, coffee café and 40-foot stone fireplace greets visitors with "an aura of warmth and compassion," said Janet Meeks, the hospital's president and chief operating officer.

"We, frankly, did not want it to look like a hospital," Meeks said of the $120 million expansion, which includes a new patient tower with 60 beds and an integrated cardiovascular center.

The facility's decor features soothing colors in a cream palette and a mix of art that holds spiritual meaning, such as salvaged stained-glass windows and a sculpture of St. Ann.

"The feeling when you walk into the hospital rooms at St. Ann's, they're like being in a hotel room," said Chris Lagana, owners representative for design and construction at Mount Carmel Health System. "It's not stark.... It's a very comfortable hotel room that just happens to provide top-notch medical care." Mount Carmel took a similar approach in designing its new Grove City facility, which includes an emergency room, medical offices and ambulatory services. The facility has a deliberately peaceful aesthetic, with trees in the lobby and ample natural light throughout, said Sean McKibben, president and chief operating officer at Mount Carmel West.

"For a long time, hospital architecture, with all due respects to architects, looked very institutional," McKibben said. "When patients come in, they want something that's calming."

OhioHealth has worked to strike a balance between providing a healing environment for patients and an efficient layout for staff at the $321 million Neuroscience Institute being built at OhioHealth Riverside Methodist Hospital.

The 10-story, 409,000-square-foot tower will include 224 private rooms and be the tallest building on Riverside's campus when it opens next year.

The project began with the primary goal of meeting the demand for private beds, and as administrators explored other opportunities, plans developed for the neuroscience addition, said Doug Scholl, director of design and construction for OhioHealth.

"There are a lot of smart people doing a lot of great planning, and lot of involvement from our nurses and doctors," Scholl said. "We've had great input from all of the people who are going to take care of the patients."

Riverside's expansion will feature decentralized nursing stations, "so the nurses are spread throughout the floor in what we're calling caregiver nurse stations-a pod of nurses for every four rooms," Scholl said. "One of the driving goals was a patient-centered environment, (and) it ended up being more efficient for the staff."

Staff input also factored into the decision-making process surrounding the design of OhioHealth's new Pickerington Medical Campus, a $42 million project slated to open in 2015.

"They are the ones who will be working in the space every day, so we began the design process by engaging hundreds of our staff to look at every facet of the building to determine how to make it the most efficient for both the care provider and the patient," said Christina Fitzer, an OhioHealth spokeswoman.

Nationwide Children's Hospital incorporated a host of imaginative amenities into its 12-story, $840 million expansion, which opened in 2012 and added 750,000 square feet and six acres of green space to an existing campus.

Visitors navigate their way through the building using a color-coded wayfinding system. "It's much like a subway, where you're on the red line or blue line or green line, and there's a path woven into the floor," said Patty McClimon, senior vice president of planning and facilities.

A two-story atrium with a café and gift shop, wooden animal sculptures and a Magic Forest play-and-relaxation area provide welcome distractions for children and families during their stay.

"The number one thing is patient care," McClimon said. "If you have relaxed families and happier staff, then that improves patient care."

Patients can customize the look of their room by choosing the color of their bed's LED headboard and by posting cards, photos and artwork on a wall decorated in magnetic paint.

And, "You don't just get a TV when you're in a room at Nationwide Children's, you get an 'edutainment' station," McClimon said. "You can watch TV, you can also do gaming and on-demand movies. You can order your dinner. We've had some kids say they don't want to leave."

Dana Wilson is a freelance writer.