by Nicole Einbeck
Senior Consultant, Operational Effectiveness

Think about this for a minute. You and your spouse decide to build a home together and your spouse never asks for your input as design decisions are made. Or the plans are drawn without any consideration for your daily living requirements or preferences.

Building or re-designing a health care facility has the same issues but on a larger scale and with much more serious consequences The ultimate goal in any design process should be to improve patient care by eliminating waste, reducing cost and improving quality. Understanding the needs and constraints of the providers, clinicians and support staff who work in the space will help eliminate inefficient decision-making and potential barriers to common processes. Building a new facility or completing a departmental re-design is most successful when collaborative input is included as it provides the opportunity to develop ideal processes that optimize space, people, equipment and technology. 

With Lean principles as the backdrop, following are key steps to consider when designing and preparing to move into a new space:

  • Begin Workplace Organization now. Designing new space is the time to look at current processes and organize the current work environment to better promote quality and efficiency while eliminating wasted effort and excess inventory. Engage appropriate staff in establishing visual controls to stop or correct a problem as it occurs, standardizing supply storage and location replenishment plans, setting par levels and shedding unnecessary materials and supplies.
  • Form multidisciplinary work teams that include representatives from provider groups, nursing, housekeeping, materials management, lab, pharmacy, etc. to brainstorm and create Workflow Design. Understanding how patients, information and materials will flow through the new facility must be determined prior to designing the space, so don’t think about the space, design the ideal patient experience. Will there be a centralized check-in process? How will patients be notified when his or her exam room is ready?

Let the operational workflow design the space – not the other way around. Engage your providers and staff to fully design how staff will flow in the new environment. What equipment and technology will be utilized? How will staff know the patient has arrived and is ready to be seen?

Overlay the ideal workflows on the floor plans. Do the connections and pathways align?

  • Create Standard Work for staff to understand their role in the process and to ensure processes are done in a consistent, highly reliable way. Does all staff understand the patient, information and material flow in the new space? Do they fully understand their role in the process? Are they confident in providing exceptional care on opening day? Remember to document everything. Because the building and design process takes time, it’s extremely important to document the ideal workflows and standard work so they can be used for staff training and orientation.
  • Create and facilitate a comprehensive training program to ensure a smooth transition on the first patient day and beyond. Opening day of any new facility or department is exciting yet stressful for both patients and staff. If providers and staff share negative comments about the new space it often leads to poor patient experiences. Making sure providers and staff are fully prepared and trained on opening day can help eliminate both staff and patient frustration. 
  • Practice makes perfect. Pilot the new processes prior to opening day.

A growing health system was having capacity constraints in their clinic setting. As a trusted partner, the Vizient facility design team worked hand in hand with physicians, office staff, and support services representatives to redefine their care delivery and elevate the patient experience. Using Lean principles as a backbone, a structured method for transitioning the future-state workflows into sustainable operations was achieved. Standardization of space and technology allowed them to replicate high reliability across the system.

This standardized clinic model was designed for utilization at multiple sites within the health system, ensuring a branded, consistent and reliable patient experience regardless of clinic location. On opening day staff and providers were beaming with pride because of their ownership in the creation of the new workflows and space design. Patients could feel this excitement which provided trust and a calming experience for their first visit to the new clinic.   

Change can be difficult, but more involvement from end users in designing the ideal patient experience will be the beginning of behavior change.

It takes a village to create an ideal patient experience, so get the village involved.

For more information about how Vizient can deliver the best solution for your design or build project, contact us today.

About the author. As a senior consultant specializing in Lead-led design, Nicole Einbeck guides member organizations in improving workflow and documenting new standards. For nearly two decades, she has worked across the health care field in a variety of settings, including human resources, risk management, occupational health, employee health, safety and wellness, and process improvement. Prior to joining Vizient, Einbeck spent five years on Lean transformation at Monroe Clinic in Monroe, Wisconsin, where she also served as the move project manager and process improvement specialist. 

Published: February 11, 2020