Creating winning brands through standardization & customization of healthcare facilities
Creating winning brands through standardization & customization of healthcare facilities.
Visit any McDonald’s, Starbucks or Ritz Carlton, anywhere in the nation or the world. The look and feel of each location feels almost exactly the same as all the others. Yet it’s not a stale, old feeling. It always feels fresh and new.
Each facility offers a physical presence designed to please customers, make processes more efficient and – if done with excellence and intentionality – build brand value. Think of a brand as something embedded into the heart. Each location provides adequate workspace and maintains a consistent look and image, all contributing to a positive customer experience.
The look and feel of these popular destinations is being achieved through a healthy combination of both standardization and customization. We normally think of standardization and customization as opposites.
Consider what Jim Collins writes about the genius of the AND, a concept developed in the book “Built to Last.” Builders of greatness reject the “Tyranny of the OR” and embrace the “Genius of the AND.” They embrace both extremes across a number of dimensions at the same time – purpose AND profit, continuity AND change, freedom AND responsibility, discipline AND creativity, humility AND will.
This thinking results in a creative design that can be replicated in multiple locations, without having to rethink and redesign each facility AND continuously improve everything by building on the best of the best of what has been already accomplished.
Standardization at the core
Standardization begins with the interior design team developing a model that can be scaled to use in large and small locations, in both major cities, as well as rural areas. In a healthcare setting, this includes design that meets the needs of patients and staff while carrying the hospital’s branding identity regardless of the facility size or location.
Customization includes the creation of an original design that differentiates the healthcare system from its competitors. It involves a newer approach to space usage that innovatively supports physicians, nurses and administrators while adding to the patient experience. Once it is finalized, it can be standardized across multiple facilities.
Once standardized, then we look for new ways to improve the standards.
The standardization and customization model has many benefits. Rather than wasting time, energy and money on a total redesign for each new project, it greatly enhances speed to market, reduces costs and improves functionality. The design team can allot more time and energy to improving what’s already been done.
Standardization & customization in practice
As larger healthcare systems build new regional hospitals, suburban clinics and urgent care centers to serve more patients, many are adopting the standardization and customization model.
One example is The University of Kansas Healthcare System, which recently expanded with the opening of it new Cambridge Tower in Kansas City, Kansas. It features 92 patient rooms and 11 surgical suites. The tower handles surgical oncology, neurology, neurosurgery and ear, nose and throat services.
3D modeling was used during the design stage allowing the staff to see and understand how the rooms would be laid out.
The design includes many patient amenities and one-of-a-kind branding elements such as a Kids Dugout, a Kansas City Royals-themed waiting room for patients and families: a green roof offering peaceful views of nature and a curated collection of artwork.
The interior theme is carried throughout with special custom millwork highlighted by walnut laminate and wood wall paneling. A chapel was designed with a 3D look featuring woods of walnut and birch. Patient rooms are enhanced with selective wood elements. Lighting was also specially designed to highlight the main dining areas.
Many of the elements of the Cambridge Tower can be duplicated throughout The University of Kansas Healthcare System as they continue expanding.
Many other facilities are adding creative touches to build brand recognition.
Some are designing greeting stations with their logo carved into the greeting area. Uniform color schemes with specific signage are carried across all locations. Select furniture pieces are utilized with special focus lighting to create a unique look and feel.
Creative use of wood brands the patient check-in area for each cubicle and the back wall.
The interior theme of Cambridge Tower is carried through with special custom millwork highlighted by walnut laminate and wood wall paneling.
At The University of Kansas Healthcare System’s new Cambridge Tower in Kansas City, Kansas, this chapel was designed with a 3D look featuring woods of walnut and birch.
Making it happen with collaboration
Healthcare organizations wishing to build their brand through standardization and customization should develop a collaborative effort between the hospital construction staff, architects and the millwork/products team. Patients, caregivers and key stakeholders also can be brought into the process.
It begins with a blank canvas on what the facility is wishing to accomplish. Key elements of the planning process include:
Space analyzation: This involves determining the design parameters according to the given space. It includes sifting through different architectural elements for each area and melding those with the creative concept. Some ideas and products may fit certain patient settings while others may need to be adjusted.
Patient needs: The branding theme should first be creative and functional, and then flow consistently throughout the facility. The objective should be to create a customer experience that solicits a positive emotive response without sacrificing the comfort of the patient. Needs for privacy and ease of access should work hand-in-hand with the brand scheme.
Interaction and usage: Relationships between users can be determined by spatial design. Reception areas can be created to foster communication between patients and staff. Other areas can be developed to maintain private spaces for patients while still others can extend the brand theme in offices used by staff. Placement and design of cabinetry also contribute to the desired behavioral patterns between physicians, nurses and other team members.
Exterior appearance: The medical facility may be situated in a high-traffic area, such as a strip center or corner of a well-traveled intersection. The interior of the lobby may be visible through glass windows from the sidewalk or street. The brand scheme can be designed in such a way so the desired experience is communicated to passers-by as well as actual users.
Accuracy and specificity: The appearance and size of selected cabinetry and products should be discussed by construction personnel, the architect and suppliers well in advance of the building phase. Mistakes are often made by a lack of sufficient pre-planning communication between team members. Last-minute changes or substitutions can be costly and detrimental to the desired brand impact. Pre-build planning enables the organization to avoid errors and delays while saving on unnecessary expenses.
Once the final design is agreed upon, the team will have a working concept in place. The concept can be used in one facility and then slightly tweaked and improved to meet the needs of each new location.
By standardizing the design process, designers will actually find they have more creativity within those boundaries. It demands designers who are passionate, fully engaged and eager to make each project better than the last one.
Ben Cohen is vice president/COO, and Phil Cohen is founder and CEO, of Cohen Architectural Woodworking