Firm's role on the project: Planning, Programming, Architecture, Design, Interiors
To address the need for outpatient pediatric services and to continue the brand of an integrated experience on the main hospital campus as a convenient alternative to the disparate outpatient locations available to parents.
St. Louis Children's Hospital, BJC HealthCare, and Washington University Physicians decided to bring a full spectrum of services under one roof in the St. Louis Children's Hospital Specialty Care Center located in suburban St. Louis. The center serves children ranging in age from infant through teenager. Departments include surgery, pediatric acute wound service, pharmacy, imaging, lab spaces, orthopedics, infusion, pediatrics, audiology, ophthalmology, psychology, and therapy functions.
Engaging pediatric patients to make return visits for treatments and appointments can be challenging in part due to the anxiety-provoking encounter that medical appointments and procedures can induce. To support an improved experience, the team conducted a review of literature related to children’s preferences in healthcare environments. This revealed that children relate and understand their environments in a rather sophisticated manner. In the design of the new Specialty Care Center, the team developed design strategies that moved beyond creating simplistic, static visual environments to creating dynamic environments that engage multiple age groups. The Specialty Care Center design is based on the theme of 'imagination and discovery’; focusing on opportunities to play, socialize, fantasize, explore, and experience.
Integration of color, finish materials, and graphics are designed to support the theme and allow children to interact with their environment. Upon arriving at the Specialty Care Center, each child is given a special “passport” on which they receive destination stamps as they “travel” to different departments throughout the building or undergo tests, scans, or procedures, transforming a potentially frightening experience into one with elements of surprise and delight.
To inform design decisions, the team surveyed clinical leaders in each of the different clinics to better understand how treatments, therapies, and procedures impact how children are physically positioned during an appointment, procedure, or therapy session. Engaging clinicians early-on in the design process can help inform how the built environment can go beyond providing positive distractions to become a tool for clinical and therapeutic care. Findings informed the placement of graphic elements on the walls, ceilings, and floors to provide positive distractions in the most effective locations.
Additionally, the built environment provides benchmarks and milestones in therapy areas – for example, graphic elements in the flooring can be used to work through mobility issues. Iconography used throughout the center helps aid way-finding to different clinics while flooring patterns and graphics help patients and families navigate independently through the clinics themselves. Graphic elements used on the walls serve an educational function and are often accompanied by narrative text that depict stories of the region.
The new facility opened in June of 2015 and is receiving positive anecdotal feedback that indicates the design solutions have been successful. Research and inquiry techniques used in the design process are being replicated in new inpatient projects taking place at SLCH’s main campus. The hope is that this will translate to a similar experience across SLCH’s sites reflective of their mission – “Doing What’s Right for Kids".