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Healthcare Spotlight: 1250 Building Pod Concept

Written by Megan Henry, Associate AIA, Project Designer at MKSD architects.

Continuous advancement of the healthcare industry requires architects/designers to be vigilant in understanding the latest trends in the design and function of healthcare buildings.  From medical office buildings to hospitals, patient experience and staff efficiency are key in executing successful projects. 

One of the latest design trends to emerge in the healthcare sector is the “pod” concept.  This design strategy has been effectively implemented throughout various healthcare systems in the U.S. and is backed by studies demonstrating improved patient experience, increased workflow efficiencies, flexibility for growth, and more.  The Center for Advanced Health Care at Lehigh Valley Hospital in Allentown, PA (i.e. the 1250 Building) took advantage of this concept in the renovation of its Second Floor this past year.

The existing, outdated layout of the Second Floor at the 1250 Building lacked the efficiency and flexibility required to meet the current and future growth needs of its practices.  The layout was subject to negative patient experience due to the disjointed separation of practices and difficulty in wayfinding. 

Upon exiting the elevator, patients entered an open area with access to two out of the four practices.  The other two practices were located off an adjacent hallway that spanned almost the entire length of the building.  The separation of practices resulted in duplication of staff support space (i.e. check-in, staff lounges, conference rooms, etc.) and lack of collaboration (i.e. individual office space) – a design concept that has since faded.  The hatched areas in the image below depict the scattered staff spaces, creating muddled circulation patterns between patients and staff.

Existing Floor Plan

The redesign of the 1250 Building Second Floor exemplifies the benefits of pod concept design.  The uniformity of the overall layout allowed for more streamlined and expansive clinical space with limited duplication of support services, providing an increased patient volume, increased revenue, and staff efficiency. 

Patients now exit the elevator and enter a central check-in and waiting area.  The central check-in allows for a streamlined process to serve all practices within the floor, thus limiting patient wait time.  After check-in, a staff member escorts the patient down the central corridor to their room located within the practice’s corresponding pod.  As patients travel down the corridor, each pod is defined by color, a change in flooring material, and a change in ceiling design.  This not only breaks up the incredibly long corridor, but also helps provide wayfinding for the patients.

Before & After

The patient side of each pod located off the central spine is made up on 5-6 exam rooms, a toilet room, and touchdown space for staff.  On the staff side, each pod is flanked with a succession of support spaces such as provider offices, medication areas, clean storage, etc.  The pods reduce patient density and increase privacy by creating a buffer to the “off-stage” staff support spaces that line the perimeter of the building as shown in the hatched areas of the image below.  The off-stage staff area provides ease of access to multiple pods without crossing circulation paths with patients, minimizing traffic within the central corridor.  The design of the staff area supports a collaborative and flexible work environment with access to amply daylight.  Through the repetitive layout of clinical and support spaces, existing or new practices can grow without the need for renovation.   

New Floor Plan

The Center for Advanced Health Care at Lehigh Valley Hospital is a prime example of how the pod concept can be successfully implemented, even within the constraints of an existing building.  We would like to send a huge thank you to Bob Kaplan, AIA at LVHN, the staff at the Second Floor of the 1250 Building and Boyle Construction for working with us on this project and making it a reality!

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