The Joint Institutional Facility: How Design Can Bring Healthcare Systems Together to Provide Shared Costs While Maintaining Institutional Identity

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By: Lindsey Burghgraef

Palos Health, a private healthcare group, re-developed and expanded an existing outpatient campus in the growing Chicago suburb of Orland Park in conjunction with healthcare partner Loyola University Medical Center,. The campus housed a mix of medical offices built over the last 30 years, in three different buildings, disjointed with separate entrances for each building.  A campus master plan, crafted by the design team at Harley Ellis Devereaux (HED), unified the campus by adjusting clinics into an academic health center model and organized services to increase collaboration and patient ease.  

The overall project is a 5-year, $80 million campus development that includes a new 83,000 square foot Ambulatory Care Center, 40,000 square feet of renovated space in the existing buildings and the construction of a 316-car parking deck.  The project was completed under a design-build project delivery model, led by Walsh Construction with HED serving as the architect of record.

The project was a unique undertaking in many ways, the most challenging aspect being that Palos owns the building, but Loyola University Medical Center, through a mix of leased spaces, joint ventures, and related partnerships, has now become a tenant of various parts within it. With two different institutions and sets of expectations to satisfy, the endeavor quickly became an effort to balance the expectations and brands of two distinct medical organizations.

HED_Palos_1: The Palos health South Campus features minimal visible branding but highly visible nature instead, accommodating for the tenant partnership with the Loyola University Medical Center. 

The team distilled the problem down to the questions of how could their different standards be merged, and what types of hybrid configurations would be possible with the design?  The intent was to create spaces that can change with technology and various workflows regardless of which sub-specialty or organization is using it. The hybrid configurations included standardizing room layouts and identifying interior finishes that worked well with both institutional brands so that the project could be cohesive despite a variable end user. 

Speed to market was extremely important in revitalizing this campus and promoting the new affiliation with Loyola University Medical Center for cancer services.  The first project phase was the creation of a 10,500 sf Cancer Infusion Suite, which had to be fully operational in just four months.  The design team utilized a Lean Planning Workshop, which gathered all the users together in a one-day planning session to discuss benchmarks, best practices, and programmatic requirements for the space.  Mock-ups were developed and tested, allowing clinicians the ability to utilize the space and to adjust on the fly.  To accommodate the intense schedule, HED worked with a furniture systems vendor who provided modular components for users to review before occupancy. This reduced the construction effort required for this initial Suite and allowed for occupancy to take place sooner.   

Through the unification of these two institutions under one roof, the healthcare teams were able to save significant operational costs, increase shared learning, and provide better care to their patients through complimentary specialties. Some of the more tangible benefits of this joint facility include:

  1. Lower building development costs up front.
  2. Lower operational costs for utilities, utility staff, and more.
  3. Shared marketing costs in cross-promoting the campus. 
  4. Improved efficiency in patient treatment due to adjacency of care.

Joint Design Inspiration: Environmental Context

The design for Palos began with the idea that the facility should reflect its surrounding prairie setting and embody the natural environment contained within its bordering wetlands. It was imperative that natural elements be reinforced from the moment patients turn into the property and continue throughout their entire visit. Iterations of sky, earth, stone, brick, and glass were concepts employed to effectively reference this natural beauty. This concept allowed both organizations to embrace the shared design when typically, brand identity items, such as color palette and iconography often set the design tone. When multiple institutions are involved, this unifying design strategy can replace that typical approach to design. 

Lindsey Burghgraef is Interior Designer & Megan Gallagher, Medical Planner | Harley Ellis Devereaux (HED)

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