The Mario Lemieux Center for Blood Cancers is a 24,000-square-foot outpatient treatment facility located within the UPMC Hillman Cancer Center in Pittsburgh. Designed by Radelet McCarthy Polletta Architects and Interior Designers (Pittsburgh), the center was completed in December 2012 and began treating patients in January 2013. It includes a reception area, treatment suite, clinic suite, patient-family lounge, centrally located lab, on-site pharmacy, and several patient lounges.

The design objectives for this facility highlight two key treatment philosophies advocated by the center: to create a functional, patient-centered environment, and to evoke a sense of calm and ease while highly integrating technology into the space.

To achieve this, Radelet McCarthy Polletta and UPMC led multiple focus groups with the clinical staff, a patient focus group, and a technology team. The patients described the loss of control that’s experienced while undergoing cancer treatment, which adds to their anxiety and fear. Through these meetings it became clear that the design of the Center needed to give patients control of their environment if it was to facilitate healing. For example, the patients emphasized the importance of having the nursing staff readily available. Therefore, the pharmacy, lab, and supply rooms are centrally located so that nurses can remain close to the patient.

When patients and family arrive at the center they’re welcomed by staff and provided a personal treatment bay or a private exam room for the duration of their visit. Services are brought to the patient instead of requiring the patient to move from one space to the next. While the treatment areas are designed for comfort, the center’s layout encourages patients to explore the inviting lounges and the rooftop garden.

Each patient carries an RF tag during their visit, which is connected to a locating system.  This gives patients the freedom to decide how to spend their time at the center, while allowing the medical staff to know where patients are in the process at all times.

The space relies on landmark features rather than prominent signage for wayfinding. The choice of materials and finishes was a particular challenge; there was a need to balance designing a space that was comfortable and a space that treated immune-suppressed patients at high risk for infection. Radelet McCarthy Polletta selected a variety of finishes that convey a sense of warmth and comfort, while also being durable and easy to maintain. This carried through in the details such as sinks integral in the countertops, sliding translucent panels without base tracks, and hands-free faucets.