Impact of Design Series Highlights Unity Health Care Brentwood Case Study

The American Society of Interior Designers has released the latest case study in its Impact of Design Series, highlighting a humanistic healthcare space that prioritizes the surrounding community and reflects the values of the Brentwood neighborhood, located in Washington, D.C.

Unity Health Care Brentwood, built by Rand Construction and designed by Gensler, was recently recognized as a winner of the ASID Outcome of Design Awards, a testament to its dedication of pre- and post-occupancy research to quantify the impact of design. The case study highlights how Unity’s new design enhances employee and patient experience, invokes a stronger feeling of community and improves overall well-being through compassionate care.

Founded in 1985, Unity Health Care focuses on a team-based approach to encourage patients to become active participants in their own healthcare. Unity provides a full range of services as a patient-centered medical home — from pregnancy and infancy to the senior years. With a mission to promote healthier communities through comprehensive health and human services, regardless of ability to pay, Unity’s goal was to use design as a tool to help better serve patients, employees and visitors.

“Unity Brentwood embodies how design impacts lives in a multitude of ways,” remarks Randy Fiser, Hon. FASID, ASID CEO. “As a leading example of innovative healthcare design, Unity Brentwood designed with intention to measurably improve the patient experience. Their design and research process was notably inclusive and collaborative, and we look forward to seeing how these solutions continue to benefit and strengthen the Brentwood community.”

Unity Health Care Brentwood utilized the following solutions to achieve their design goals:

  • Define personal space: Revised furniture selections and a reorganized layout challenged the conventional wisdom about ganged seats being the most efficient solution. Wider seat selections, including bench seats, increased spacing between seats and resulted in increased utilization. Elements (screens and movable tables) were included to help define personal space.
  • Clarify the process: A clear path was created to registration by reducing visual clutter and replacing numerous confusing signs with a simple station designation directing patients where to queue for check-in. Clear sightlines were provided to call points.
  • Encourage communication: A variety of seating options was selected to meet specific patient needs and promote communication — such as wide benches to accommodate bariatric patients with dignity, arm chairs to provide support for older patients, multiple small clusters of seating and a large communal table to encourage more dialogue between patients.
  • Reflect the community & diversity: Designing a quilt wall of fabric-wrapped triangles incorporated the community’s aesthetic preference for visually complex patterns and bright, saturated colors and included the community’s own inspirational words hand silk-screened on select areas. A macramé piece inspired by an outline shape of the Brentwood neighborhood with the use of various cords and nontraditional knot pairings reflect the diversity of the community.

To transform the space, Unity Health Care Brentwood partnered with Gensler and fabrics company Sunbrella Contract, which served as a research partner. Together, the three organizations initiated research on the registration and waiting period, exploring how to better serve patients and visitors, enhance the staff experience and strengthen bonds with the Brentwood community.

Key design outcomes included: new furniture arrangement increased communication among patients by 100%, art representative of the community increased staff happiness by 45%; complaints about wait time decreased by 25% (despite no change in perceived wait times). Additionally, a more diverse seat selection and increased spacing between them added seven seats and resulted in increased utilization. Learn more about and download the case brief here.


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Posted February 11, 2020

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