Open space Virtua hopes new setup will change relationship with its patients

Anjalee Khemlani//January 18, 2016

Open space Virtua hopes new setup will change relationship with its patients

Anjalee Khemlani//January 18, 2016

You’ve seen an examination room, a consult room and an imaging room.
What if all three were in the same line of sight?

Virtua Health’s new open-space design at its Medford center is allowing doctors and specialists to work in the same office space — rather than in independent office areas — allowing easy access to an exam room and consult area.

Call it modern workplace layout meeting modern medicine.

“When my team came to me with the concept for this center, it was clear that this could be a new path for the future,” said Richard Miller, CEO and president of Virtua. “This complex was designed with very unique features to improve the experience of patients and their families.”

The center began operating in December.

Among the newest gadgets are the three patient check-in kiosks, which look like the ones you use to pick up movie tickets at a theater. The kiosks allow IDs to be scanned, and patients can move into whichever sub-area waiting room they need to.

Primary care, cardiology care services and urgent care are included at the center, with plans to add other specialties in a timeshare fashion throughout the week.

“In the ‘team pod,’ caregivers and physicians can interact at the heart of the practice, where there is a full line of sight to all exam rooms so clinicians are close to patient activity and fully aware when they are needed,” Virtua said in a prepared statement.

Also near the exam rooms are secondary waiting rooms to allow family members to be closer during the process.

The room was designed by Martin Valins, the principal architect and planning director of The Tono Group. He said Virtua wanted to improve patient experience, have a forward-thinking approach and offer a sustainable and affordable space.

Diane Hinkle, vice president of operations at Virtua Medical Group, said it’s a design that Virtua feels should be replicated.

“We would love to use this in our future projects,” she said. “If we look to develop another medical center, we would love to use this concept.”

Valins said it aims to change the habits of the care providers.

“You are trying to build a bridge to the future while crossing it at the same time,” he said.

The design, he said, is a new approach to the traditional medical space, which often keeps doctors locked away in their offices.

“Normally you would see a doctor (who) … at the end of the day would retract to their office,” Valins said. “Rather than be in their office on their own, they now have an open space” to encourage increased collaborations and interactions.

“It’s not that they weren’t doing that before, but now they have the space for it.”

Valins said the design should have had zero impact on the cost, compared with a traditional medical office layout.

Hinkle said the changes and new technology are important investments.

“So many factors go into what is a good investment. Anything improving clinical quality and safety, we will put our efforts into that,” Hinkle said. “The whole thing is about patient loyalty.”

Even if it means embracing changes as the patient’s habits change.

“If we put in a kiosk, and if more patients use it, we can downsize or shift staffing to another initiative,” Hinkle said. “It becomes a tradeoff.”

Valins agreed, adding that changing habits won’t take place overnight, but the impact of this new design will be felt by both patients and providers.

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