As more healthcare systems recognize that preventive care is better for people’s health in the long run—as well as more economical for patients, providers, and payers—they’re shifting focus from reactive treatment to more proactive care. As such, these organizations are adapting their building portfolios to provide consumers different ways to access services that are easier, more convenient, and more affordable than traditional hospital-based medicine.

Savvy and future-thinking providers recognize that patients want healthcare services, including same-day surgeries and even cancer care, within outpatient environments that are close to home, quick to access, and in proximity to other businesses and amenities.

But this isn’t as easy as “build it and they will come.” Healthcare organizations and their design partners must first understand a community’s needs to design a facility that answers them and encourages use.

In January 2014, Eppstein Uhen Architects (EUA; Milwaukee) began working with Froedtert & the Medical College of Wisconsin (MCW) health network to expand its presence across southeastern Wisconsin. Faced with some of the highest hospital occupancy rates in the state (roughly 85 percent), the organization sought to bring more outpatient services to the communities it serves to alleviate capacity issues while also providing care closer to where patients live. Froedtert & MCW health network’s in-house experts gathered and analyzed data to guide them in determining where to locate several new facilities.

Drexel Town Square Health Center
In January, Froedtert & MCW health network opened the 110,000-square-foot Drexel Town Square Health Center in Oak Creek, Wis., located in a walkable, pedestrian-focused retail setting with ample parking and access to public transportation. This location brings expanded services, including primary and urgent care, specialty care, rehabilitation, sports medicine, occupational therapy, vision, preventive cardiology, and hospital-level cancer care (through the Froedtert & MCW Cancer Network) to the rapidly growing area.

The building is positioned at a key entrance to a busy retail complex; its architecture is designed to maximize street-level activation, with staff and other non-patient areas located along the public edge. A curved wood-panel wall along the cancer center defines the entrance point, simplifying wayfinding for patients. To minimize patient, automobile, and service conflicts, parking is positioned to draw traffic away from the facility’s entrance walkways while also allowing space for future building expansion.

To promote a stress-free experience, the centralized registration desk is located near the entrance, so patients can be greeted and directed to their destination. Waiting areas are located near stairs and elevators for ease in wayfinding, with ample natural light for improved patient satisfaction. Bright and airy dual-access universal exam rooms surround core staff work areas, reducing travel distances for staff and patients while ensuring flexibility.

The 17,000-square-foot cancer center includes surgical, medical, and radiation oncology, bringing services typically found only in hospital settings closer to where patients live. Infusion bays are positioned to maximize views to the outside to alleviate the anxiety associated with long treatments. An on-site wellness center, retail pharmacy, lab, blood draw, and massage area further support the goal to provide patient support and resources in one location.

McKinley Health Center
The Froedtert & MCW McKinley Health Center, the health system’s first clinic in the rapidly expanding downtown Milwaukee area, opened in November 2017, offering primary care, orthopedics, and physical therapy. Collocated with the training facility for the Milwaukee Bucks NBA team and the new Fiserv Forum multipurpose arena, the health center provides care to Bucks players and the public, underscoring the health system’s commitment to the community by connecting patients to the expertise of the academic medical center.

EUA worked with user groups and stakeholders to design a clinic that seamlessly integrates with the Bucks training center and matches the culture and needs of the downtown arena district. The 41,340-square-foot facility includes a floor for primary care and a floor dedicated to orthopedics, sports medicine, physical therapy, podiatry, and radiology. With demographics in the downtown area shifting toward a younger population, a FastCare walk-in clinic with extended hours was also included to accommodate those who don’t typically seek preventive care.

Views of the city from within the facility create a dynamic space and connection to the outdoors, which serve as positive distractions for patients, particularly those undergoing physical therapy rehabilitation. Daylighting in staff work spaces, waiting rooms, and imaging areas further energizes the space.

Mequon Health Center
Froedtert & MCW health network wanted to increase offerings available to the Mequon, Wis., area’s large number of collegiate and high school athletes. The solution was an 80,000-square-foot health and wellness center, which opened in October 2017. The facility, designed by EUA, focuses on education, training, and injury prevention, offering primary care, sports medicine, and physical therapy services as well as on-site imaging and a two-story performance gym and rehabilitation space.

To welcome patients and visitors, registration is visible immediately upon entering. Signage is simple and clear, and elegant finishes and furnishings are accented with warm wood panels to evoke a hospitality-like feel throughout. Large windows in the rehabilitation and imaging areas bring in daylight and views to the outside. The athletic performance gym, visible from the first- and second-floor lobby and waiting areas, provides positive distractions for patients while also serving as a visual connection to emphasize the health network’s focus on wellness and prevention.

The unique nature of each facility meets the healthcare needs of the southeastern Wisconsin population by providing the right care in the right place. By creating a network of outpatient clinics with customized services, Froedtert & MCW health network is successfully expanding its reach in this expanding marketplace.

Paul Stefanski, AIA, EDAC, LEED AP, is senior design architect and principal at Eppstein Uhen Architects (Milwaukee). He can be reached at