Firm's role on the project: Planning, Programming, Architecture, Design, Interiors
Staff at the AMITA Health Cancer Institute & Outpatient Center wanted to create a patient experience that embodies Adventist core values of love, hope, faith, and peace. They also wanted to offer patients choices, such as the choice of private, semi-private, or open-bay treatment spaces for chemotherapy.
Anchored by oncology services, the intent of the two-story ambulatory center’s design is to support and uplift patients, families, and staff. The “Compass of Meaning” theme utilized in the facility is symbolic of the patient’s journey through treatment and embodies the mission of the AMITA Health System.
The first challenge in the design of this facility was to create an environment that provides choices for infusion patients beyond the traditional open bay for chemotherapy patients and how to configure the choices of spaces to best support these patients.
Another challenge was to create ease of wayfinding to separate the various types of services and spaces the center offers. It was crucial to keep patient paths simple and intuitive to assist patients and their companions in locating oncology, radiology, and outpatient imaging. This also involved creating distinct, dedicated entries for both oncology and outpatient populations.
Another challenge was how to plan the building and its positioning on the site to take advantage of the surrounding natural elements and bring natural light into areas that traditionally have not had this access, such as the linear accelerator vault.
The design team conducted initial research and presented this information to owners and key leaders. Recognizing that cancer treatment is a journey, the team worked with Starizon Studio to help think through this experience. The team went on field trips and looked at other industries, e.g., Apple and American Girl. The owner and design team conducted focus groups of current patients, cancer survivors, and family members. Community and patient input led to the design of 17 private infusion spaces, four semi-private spaces, and an open-socialization grouping of seven infusion positions. As a result of these discussions, the center design evolved with the creation of “living rooms” versus “waiting rooms.” The community and patients were given the opportunity to convey their ideas about furniture and artwork options, with selections based on the elements of healing, spiritual aspects, and uplifting design.
Wayfinding starts with appropriate signage for two distinctive entry points onto the campus, one each for the cancer institute and outpatient imaging and radiation oncology patients. Wayfinding also makes visual connection to the outpatient imaging lobby area. The compass design on the lobby floor has ribbons in representative colors flowing from the compass to the appropriate destinations.
All public areas have access to natural light and calming outdoor views. The eight-acre setting includes a natural forest preserve along the eastern edge of the campus, walking trails and healing gardens. A pond provides both a water feature and storm water management. All private infusion rooms have windows with views to the natural setting. A healing garden with a courtyard wraps around the exterior of the open infusion area.
The facility opened in March 2016. An executive with the health system reports that growing volumes of patients are embracing the new facility, with most infusion patients preferring the private and semi-private infusion rooms over the larger communal space. A post-occupancy evaluation (POE) will be conducted in six to eight months to study the room choices and whether demographics or where the patient is in their treatment journey influence their decision.