In my last post, I discussed how healthcare legislation and the emphasis on containing costs are offering new opportunities for designers. The golden era of healthcare design is not so much declining as simply entering a new era of innovations leading to greater efficiencies.

By thinking lean, designers can help healthcare providers save costs with smarter, more efficient spaces, from thoughtful planning that right-sizes space to choosing sustainable materials and energy-efficient mechanical systems. And those cost-savings can be reinvested into the facility to create more appealing interiors for patients.

Many of you asked about the clinics HGA has done for HealthEast Care System discussed last time. Over the past decade, we’ve completed numerous projects for the Minnesota-based healthcare provider at new and existing sites. We’ve developed a successful clinic concept/prototype that accomplishes a lot with a modest budget and limited space.

Unlike typical prototypes, this is not a cookie-cutter, one-size-fits-all solution. We start with the basic concept—limited space, limited budget—to consider attributes unique to each community, creating solutions tailored to their individual needs and cultural fit.

For the 10,000-square-foot Roselawn Clinic in a renovated commercial space in St. Paul, for instance, we considered a two-fold challenge for the fast-track schedule: Create an interior that would appeal to the diverse Russian, Hmong and Hispanic community; and transform a long, linear space into an open floor plan with clear wayfinding. The solution: Bold, rich colors and ethnic art offer an inviting multicultural ambiance while blocks of color on the floor and walls identify key intersections, nurses’ stations, and waiting areas.

The success of Roselawn led to other clinics.

At the 11,000-square-foot Cottage Grove Clinic, our medical planners utilized a racetrack design concept, with exam rooms lined along the perimeter and nursing stations in the center. This both provided simplified wayfinding as well as let in natural light into exam rooms. Cool shades of blue and green, fine art selections and rich wood tones offers a timeless setting that appeals to a mature, middle-class suburban base.

At the Eagan Clinic, on the other hand, we applied similar planning and wayfinding strategies but choose a modern aesthetic with lighters tones and engaging patterns that reflect the suburb’s younger demographics.

Finally, at the recently completed 12,000-square-foot Grand Avenue Clinic occupying an existing retail space in a distinctive shopping district, we designed a spa-like environment that complements the pedestrian-oriented street in St. Paul. Planners again employed a racetrack pattern anchored at both ends by two satellite nurses’ stations, with physician offices co-mingled among exam rooms and nurses’ stations. Touch-down charting stations interspersed throughout the corridor further streamline efficiencies. The clinic blends into the historic neighborhood by projecting an upscale image with warm materials, rich wood tones, and varied functional and ambient lighting.

In each case, we dialed up the design without dialing up the budget. As we progress through a new era of healthcare reform, designers will have more opportunities to research fresh approaches to improving healthcare delivery.