Kevin Day, HGA Healthcare Design Principal, and Diane Agee, CEO of Redwood Coast Medical Services, presented "Patient-Centered Care at the Edge" at the 2016 Healthcare Design Expo + Conference. In this Q&A, Day talks about his passion for healthcare architecture and innovations Redwood Coast and other providers are bringing to rural communities.
WHY DOES HEALTHCARE DESIGN INTEREST YOU?
If you believe, as I do, in the power of design to impact our well-being--our emotional, spiritual, and even physical state--you can see why healthcare projects are incredibly rewarding. Design can bring comfort and encourage hope, and it also can aid in the healing process.
Another rewarding aspect is the client. Many of our clients are mission-driven and selfless in their concern for their staff, patients and families. For them, design isn't about ego or profit. Its value lies in support of the healing process. The goals are clear and they are easy to get behind as an architect.
WHAT ARE CHALLENGES FACING RURAL HEALTHCARE TODAY?
Rural populations can be isolated with limited access to transportation, education and healthcare services, placing them at higher risk for chronic illness, such as heart disease, diabetes, substance abuse, and obesity. Recruitment of medical staff is a challenge, resulting in a shortage of physicians. At the same time, the need for primary care is growing as the elderly population expands with retirees looking for quiet, less costly places to live.
Many of these factors are true for Redwood Coast Medical Services, which is planning a community clinic and urgent care center in coastal Gualala, California. The nearest hospital is a 45-minute helicopter ride away. Gualala is designated by the State of California as both a Health Professional Shortage Area and a Rural Frontier Medical Service Area. This makes them eligible for federal grants and other assistance, but it is still challenging to provide and fund the care.
Redwood Coast Medical Services
HOW CAN HEALTHCARE ORGANIZATIONS MEET THE NEEDS OF THEIR COMMUNITIES?
There are many opportunities to treat the whole person rather than just the individual illness. Comprehensive delivery of care such as the Medical Home Model is becoming increasingly popular. The Medical Home Model encourages:
- Team-based care: Collaboration between physicians, specialists, and care coordinators
- Whole-person care: Focus on provider relationships, wellness and illness
- Information technology: Improved patient experience, quality and cost through electronic medical records
Through creative approaches to design and planning, healthcare organizations can achieve more with less. Can a single space serve multiple functions? What can you afford to build now vs. later? For Redwood Coast Medical Services, we designed the clinic to also function as a community center with conference and classroom spaces. The project has been planned in multiple phases to allow expansion as the community's needs grow.
WHAT IS YOUR IDEAL PROJECT?
My ideal project is a comprehensive new medical center that includes a hospital, medical office building or clinic, parking, and outdoor space. Here you have an opportunity to design environments for all stages of health--all stages of life, really.
Yet the ideal client is more important than the ideal project. Good design can be achieved at any scale and budget. A dedicated and visionary client will lead a team to success with greater certainty than will any other factor or project condition.