Healthy Living: Easing the Burden


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Griffin’s Center for Cancer Care, one side of a one-story building that opened in 2008 at a cost of $26 million and serves 400 to 500 new patients a year, looks a lot like a spa or upscale hotel. Hospital officials visited 20 facilities around the U.S., including the Wynn Hotel in Las Vegas, to develop ideas for the design of the courtyard “healing garden” and other features of the center. The result is a lobby that features a circular sanctuary for peaceful reflection and pastoral care, a health-resource center with computer linkage to medical librarians at the main hospital, a baby-grand player piano, and a glass wall through which you can see a lovely garden with a rock wall and waterfall. The garden can also be viewed by every patient receiving radiation or chemotherapy treatments in rooms off the courtyard. Based on input from focus groups (patients and staff), Griffin created single-gender waiting areas with a Southwestern influence, lounge chairs, gas fireplaces and, in the dressing room, terrycloth robes. Patient comfort and privacy were key considerations; for example, those receiving chemotherapy in the infusion section are separated from other patients by undulating walls of colorful, opaque glass.

Yale-New Haven’s 500,000-square-foot Smilow Cancer Hospital, which opened a year ago and consolidated services that had been spread across six buildings, is expected to serve more than 3,000 new patients a year. Hospital administrators there also conducted focus groups and visited sites around the country to inform the design. Lopman even had full-size cardboard models of room layouts built to enable staff and patients to live with the design before it was constructed. 

While the hospital’s final design was influenced by its urban setting and volume of patients, much thought and money was put into the exterior and interior, including a two-story lobby and seventh-floor healing garden with a stream and gazebo that overlooks the city and can also be accessed by the pediatric hospital next door. The hospital entrance features a granite water wall, a café and a boutique like those on cruise ships, where patients can purchase everything from pajamas and hats to jewelry and lotions. Patients who need wigs or post-mastectomy wear and prostheses are fitted in a private room.

Linda Secher, the manager, who says she has designed 24 cancer-center boutiques, was wooed to Connecticut by Lopman to take on the challenge of running “the most complete” cancer boutique available. “We are part of the healing,” she says. “If we can make people feel good, then we’ve done our jobs.”

Besides the latest high-tech scanners and lasers, some cancer centers, such as Smilow and Griffin, are using technology to go paperless. When patients arrive for appointments at Griffin’s cancer center, they register on computerized smart pads and get ID cards that can be scanned to announce their arrival on subsequent visits. The results of their tests and scans are available quickly to medical staff across the center. At the Smilow Cancer Hospital, workstations have been established in the corridors between every two inpatient rooms to enable medical and support staff to review information and add their own. Doctors, nurses and social workers can take “workstations on wheels,” or WOWs, directly to patients’ rooms and enter data on the spot. 
Cancer centers are working hard to get the word out about all they have to offer. Competition and economic pressures have forced hospitals to advertise more heavily to let the public know about their doctors, technology, support services and classes.

Did the opening last fall of the Smilow Cancer Hospital force other hospitals to ratchet up their marketing campaigns? “You bet,” says Salner. “It’s not only about protecting market share. It’s also a declaration that we’re proud of the programs we have and the fact that we deliver good care right here in the community.” Yet there are doctors who bemoan the trend. Pathare in Norwalk says, “We’d rather see those dollars go into patient care than into marketing and billboards.”

Healthy Living: Easing the Burden

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