The push to incorporate open, collaborative workspaces in corporate offices has been in full swing in recent years, and a new University of Minnesota building will provide a model of such spaces in a health care setting.
U officials say the design of the $160 million Health Clinics and Surgery Center, now under construction on the East Bank campus, fully embraces the tenets of "office hoteling" for many of the same reasons corporate users do: cost reductions, shrinking square-footage footprints, encouraging workplace efficiencies.
It goes a step further by adapting those principles to the U's unique role as a retail health care provider that's also an academic training ground for future doctors.
The 330,000-square-foot facility will house a series of University of Minnesota Physicians/Fairview Health Services clinics, a cancer center, an ambulatory surgery center, lab and imaging services, a discovery center and a retail pharmacy and cafe. It is set to make its debut in the first quarter of 2016.
Its layout, created by Chicago-based Cannon Design, will be unlike any other health care facility in the Twin Cities. It eliminates traditional individual offices and instead concentrates on common collaborative workspaces. The idea behind them is that they can allow teams of clinical staff teams to freely interact with each other and with patients while breaking down the literal and metaphoric walls created by separated rooms.
Another idea taken from the office hoteling playbook is a concept called "touchdown spaces," where staffers will perform such functions as follow-up meetings with patients and carry out duties such as updating medical charts. They will be arrayed along the window-filled perimeters of each clinic within the building.
"The intent with these collaborative and touchdown spaces was to be as innovative as possible in terms of working as teams," said University of Minnesota Physicians Chief Operating Officer Mary Johnson, who has been shepherding the project for two years. "We also want to bring innovation to the market through a lower-cost model for our patients."
Johnson said the "social responsibility" of reducing health care costs is a main focus of the design. That's a motivating factor behind the entire office hoteling movement. Collaborative spaces require a smaller footprint, thus lowering real estate and building costs.
But, she added, there were other motivations in choosing the collaborative layout. One of them is a customer service goal, namely, allowing for extended hours for all the clinics within the new building.
"Clinics are mainly 9-to-5 operations, but in the Health Clinics and Surgery Center, they will be open 12 hours a day Monday through Friday and four hours on Saturdays," she said. "It would be a waste if you had to have separate offices for people who work different shifts."
The U's role as an academic and research institution also was prime factor in choosing the open layout.
"We serve as the academic institution for the majority of physicians, nurses, pharmacists and dentists in the state, and they will all be present in this facility," Johnson said. "We wanted a design where we could teach across these disciplines by all of them being present in the same space."
This, she said, will better prepare students for the "market of the future," where health care reforms and reimbursement pressures will require doctors, nurses and others to work more closely as teams in an effort to keep costs down.
"We've heard from the health care providers that hire our trainees that they want them to be prepared to hit the ground running in this kind of environment of the future," she said. "So we wanted to build something that resembles what we think they're going to be working in."
Don Jacobson is a freelance writer in St. Paul and former editor of the Minnesota Real Estate Journal.