Enhancing Market Share, Patient Services and Community Relations Through Design

HGA’s Addition to and Renovation of St. Gabriel’s Hospital Integrates Lean Principles with Aesthetic Update and Brand Recognition

Minneapolis, MN—An 88,000-square-foot, three-story addition to St. Gabriel’s Hospital in Little Falls, Minnesota, in conjunction with an extensive renovation of the existing facility, has re-positioned the Catholic Health Initiatives’ hospital in today’s highly competitive healthcare marketplace.


The project, designed by HGA Architects and Engineers (HGA), increases staff productivity while enhancing the patient experience through both aesthetics and planning. HGA also provided the hospital with a clear and simple brand that carries from the exterior to the interior. At the same time, the project offered opportunities for the hospital and community to renew and strengthen their ties with each other.

“The existing hospital needed a fresh new identity, improved patient-care areas, and like many critical-access hospitals, it had staffing challenges,” explains Rob Meese, architect and principal in charge, HGA.

Selected by The Hammes Company, the project’s developer, the HGA team utilized lean principles to streamline staff workflow and improve performance; designed strategies to enhance the patient experience; and implemented architectural expertise to seamlessly attach the addition to the existing hospital.

Redefining the Patient Experience Process. HGA incorporated a simple, clear symbol into the new hospital design to provide the faith-based organization with a universally-recognized brand. The glass-and-aluminum curtain wall of the addition’s stair tower includes mullion patterning in the shape of a cross. Visible by day, the cross is reversed-out at night when it is illuminated by the stair tower behind it. The symbol is repeated inside the hospital lobby, where a wood cross reaches up and across the fireplace, which was donated by a local company.

In the main corridor, which stretches from the lobby to the cafeteria, HGA used a subdued palette of contemporary paint colors that are easily maintained and refreshed. “We focused on simple aesthetics in public areas that the patients and the community could appreciate,” Meese says.

HGA also incorporated art niches into the walls for local artists’ work. “Little Falls is a very arts-oriented community,” Meese explains, “and having the work of local artists on display, in rotating exhibits, helps strengthen ties between the hospital and the larger community.”

To ease staffing challenges and patient anxiety during the registration process in the main lobby, HGA led staff and administrators through a patient-experience process guided by lean principles (which reveal cost-effective and energy-conserving workflows that increase staff productivity and improve the patient experience).

“As healthcare designers, we felt that the staff should experience the registration process from the patient’s perspective,” Meese explains.

The final interior design reflected what the staff learned from their own experiences as patients in the registration process. Their input also helped by defining work areas with clear and easy wayfinding through the use of color, residential lighting, signage and comfortable furniture groupings. “Through the course of our designs, we included as many opinions as we could gather from managers to department staff to ensure everyone’s concerns and issues were addressed,” Meese says.

A Vertical Puzzle. St. Gabriel’s three-story addition was constructed on the west side of the existing hospital to create a new front door on the main floor as well as an expanded radiology department with X-rays, CT scans, MRIs and nuclear medicine. On the second floor, HGA expanded the surgery department, adding two new operating rooms, patient prep and recovery areas and surgery support areas. The third floor was dedicated to patient rooms.

To maximize available space, portions of the existing hospital were renovated including rehabilitation-services department on the first floor (physical, occupational, speech and cardiac rehabilitation and therapy), central sterile processing. Support spaces and overflow patient rooms are on the second floor, while a hospice room and additional support spaces are on the third floor.

By bringing the two buildings together, HGA faced a design challenge – conjoining the new addition with its 14-foot floor-to floor height for high tech spaces with the existing building and its 11-foot floor-to-floor height. The solution was to create a core box of essential services, such as nursing-support areas (utility rooms, storage, etc.) in a lower floor-to-floor structure that dovetails seamlessly with the existing hospital. High-tech spaces such as the MRIs, CTs and operating rooms that need a taller structural clearance were placed outside the core. “We were solving a vertical, three-dimensional puzzle,” Meese explains.

Patient Rooms. Space for 25 beds, including a six-bed ICU and a four-bed OB unit, was placed on the top floor. With the proper floor-to-floor alignment the hospital had flexibility of connecting these patient care units to the existing hospital allows for future growth of support spaces and patient rooms. The new patient rooms were placed along the perimeter of the building to provide each room with large windows that allow natural light and outdoor views. Built-in, cabinet-like wood headwalls for the beds store medical connections and supplies. “This home-like aesthetic in patient rooms is new to this hospital, and they’re very pleased with the result,” Meese says.

HGA also redesigned the distances between patient rooms and nursing stations, particularly in the ICU and medical-surgical units “to maximize the efficiency of the staff, and keep their energy focused on the patients,” Meese says. “In the old layout, the nurses had to run enormous lengths to get supplies and take care of patients. We consolidated this space and their footsteps to streamline their work processes and improve patient experiences.”

HGA was able to deliver efficiencies and goals within the hospital’s budget. “In the end, we provided good, sound solutions that fit within their budget and fulfilled their needs,” Meese stated. “The community has responded with donations and goodwill that have forged new connections between the facility and the people it serves.”

ABOUT HGA
HGA is an integrated architecture, engineering and planning firm that helps prepare its clients for the future. With offices in Minneapolis and Rochester, Minnesota; Milwaukee, Wisconsin; and Los Angeles, San Francisco and Sacramento, California, the nationally recognized firm has developed expertise in the healthcare, corporate, arts, community, higher education, and science/technology industries since 1953. HGA’s culture for interdisciplinary collaboration, knowledge sharing and design investiga¬tion enables its clients to achieve success with responsive, innovative and sustainable design. Visit www.HGA.com.

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Posted June 19, 2009

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