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A More Flexible Healthcare Design

February 19, 2019

The healthcare we see today isn't the healthcare we saw 20 years ago. It's becoming more patient-centric, new technologies are emerging, and both patients and staff are collaborating with each other more than ever. 

McWaters is helping healthcare facilities keep up by incorporating modular systems in their designs for healthcare space. These systems consist of walls and furniture that are easy to reconfigure, integrate with technology, and adapt to a space as needs change. 

"Modular systems are especially great for healthcare facilities," said Brooke Allison, a Workplace Consultant in McWaters' Charleston office. "They allow us to create a technology-integrated space that contributes to health, that puts patients and staff at ease, and that is flexible enough to still make sense years from now."

The benefits of modular design in healthcare are clear. 

Reduced Costs

Many facilities are hesitant to upgrade because their spaces are highly specialized and the project would be very labor intensive.

Using architectural wall solutions, like Steelcase's V.I.A., can cut down on construction time and labor costs by eliminating the need for sheet rock. It also eliminates the dust and other indoor air pollutants that can come with cutting and installing sheet rock, which can be extremely important in a healthcare setting where patients may already be experiencing breathing issues. Since the walls are quicker to put up than sheet rock, it also means that the space becomes usable much faster, reducing costs associated with downtime. 

Flexible design elements like the V.I.A. also help future-proof a space by creating a permanent-looking structure that's actually very easy to reconfigure as needs change over time. 

This is especially true in office settings in a healthcare facility. Using a versatile product, like Steelcase's Answer Panel System. The panels can be configured to be high enough to protect private information on screens or low enough to encourage collaboration. They support power and data routing as well as integrating monitors and other screens. They whole system is extremely flexible so workstations can be added, removed, or reconfigured as needs change. 

Increased Collaboration and Communication

In today's healthcare environment, staff doesn't just need large conference rooms to share information, they also need smaller huddle spaces where a group of providers can collaborate on a specific case. Using a more modular design can allow for small breakout areas and touchdown spaces throughout the facility while still giving staff access to larger conference areas. 

It's not just the staff that needs to collaborate either. Today's patient expects to be more involved in their own healthcare. Products like Steelcase's Sync nurses stations are designed so that staff have access to their technology, but also have good sightlines to their patients so that the provider and the patient can communicate easily. 

Since Sync is modular, it also helps healthcare providers prepare for the future. As they adopt new technologies or find they need to adjust their space to meet patient needs, the workstations can be adapted without having to purchase new equipment or undergo construction. 

Boosted Morale

Research is showing more and more that the way a healthcare environment looks and feels actually plays a role in how a person feels physically, cognitively and emotionally. Biophilic design, or design that uses elements of nature, is becoming popular in healthcare as a way to reduce stress and promote wellness. 

Modular design allows the designer to choose finishes and colors to help pull in those natural elements. That approach is how McWaters was able to help carry nature themes throughout the University of South Carolina's new health center. The result was a cohesive, biophilic designed building that has become a relaxing, stress-free place for both students and staff. 

Including Loved Ones

Anyone who's had a loved one suffer from a serious illness knows that they don't recover alone. They have friends sitting anxiously in the waiting rooms and loved ones spending sleepless nights trying to get comfortable on the furniture in the recovery room. 

A good design can help make these support people more comfortable so that they can focus their attention on what matters: helping their loved one recover. Furniture like the Node with ShareSurface allows the healthcare provider to shift positions throughout the rooms so they easily share their screens with the patients and their loved ones in order to collaborate on care.

Another major issue families face in a healthcare setting is sleep. When there's nowhere for a family member to sleep they usually end up creating a makeshift bed for themselves, which can lead to exhaustion and make it harder for them to care for their loved one. A modular design can include flexible sofas and lounge chairs, like the Steelcase Surround. The Surround is a fold-down sleeper sofa with ambient light and power receptacles built in. During the day it folds up to save space and allows family members to charge phones or do work on a laptop and at night it offers a comfortable place to sleep. You can add other modular elements like moveable trays, headrests, and coat hooks so the space can be as comfortable as possible for family members staying with the patient. 

While these types of designs might be a new trend in healthcare, they blend perfectly with McWaters' commitment to the customer and their innovative approach to furniture, flooring, architectural walls, and technology. 

"At the end of the day our goal with every project is to make the space function for everyone who's going to use it that it will still function 10, 15, and 20 years from now," said Linda Leggett, McWaters' Market President in Savannah. 



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