New design concepts enter the healthcare environment, transforming the experience from within.
THIS ARTICLE WAS PUBLISHED IN THE ‘Q’ – THE REGISTRY’S PRINT PUBLICATION – IN APRIL 2014Healthcare, with its tight regulations and long traditions, is not exactly the industry to drive a design revolution. Most people describe a doctor’s office this way: ratty chairs, scuffed linoleum or carpet that’s lived through one too many decades, greenish fluorescent lights, puce walls. Clinical. Impersonal. Uncomfortable.
But the Bay Area is playing host to change. One Medical Group wants you to associate different words with going to the doctor. “Relaxed.” “Stress-free.” “Inviting.”
“We’re reinventing primary care by looking at how we can improve every aspect of the experience,” said Sarah Israel, vice president of marketing at One Medical Group. “Ultimately we really want people to like going to the doctor.”
That goal relies on a competent and friendly staff, but it starts with the design of One Medical’s offices in San Francisco, New York, Boston and Los Angeles.[quote]”We’re reinventing primary care by looking at how we can improve every aspect of the experience.” Sarah Israel, vice president of marketing at One Medical Group[/quote]
“When we thought about how our offices should be designed, we put the people first and said, ‘What experience would they want?’ ” said Israel. “We want it to be very welcoming and comfortable and to feel like a unique experience, so each one of our offices is different. We want it to feel customized and fit with the neighborhood it’s in.”
Take One Medical’s clinic at 2410 California, for instance. Near the intersection of California and Fillmore streets; the Pacific Heights office is located in a retail-heavy area with a lot of pedestrian traffic.
“We wanted to give that welcoming sense of indoor/outdoor, having the pedestrian community outside feel like they could access the space,” said Michelle Granelli, senior design director at interior design firm Urban Chalet.
As such, the clinic was designed so the front half of the waiting room has the same concrete finish as the exterior sidewalk. It looks, for all intents and purposes, like there really is no division between inside and outside, making it natural for you to walk in and sit down.
This feeling is aided by floor-to-ceiling windows, which keep with the retail theme of the California and Fillmore location but also follow One Medical’s guidelines: The company considers natural light essential to putting patients at ease.
And as for the decor, it would be easy to mistake 2140 California for a high-end furniture boutique. It has the look of a just-a-bit-too-perfect living room display in a department store. In fact, one person tried to buy a couch from the office thinking it was a showroom.
The Hayes Valley location at 98 Gough Street, on the other hand, is warm, with more emphasis on wood and local art. In SoMa, dark greys and browns contrast with bright red furniture. In the Castro, the space is dominated by a bright chartreuse wall and corresponding furniture.
“Patients really respond well to our offices,” said Israel. “We see people Tweet photos or post them on Facebook and Instagram.”
It’s not just patient-forward areas getting a facelift. “We carry the design scheme all the way through to the back office space. We want to make sure that staff, providers and administrators feel like they’re working in an innovative and comfortable environment,” said Granelli.
A similar approach has produced a nontraditional look at Rock Health, an incubator for healthcare-focused tech companies. As Rock Health’s Web site puts it, “Healthcare represents nearly 18 percent of the US economy, yet it is one of the last sectors to undergo technology-based transformation.”
You’d never guess Rock Health’s incubator is involved in healthcare from looking at its new Mission Bay office. It looks like a tech start-up.
The space is long and narrow. “The city wanted it to be a restaurant or some sort of retail,” said Jason Pignolet, project architect at Studios Architecture, the firm that handled the interiors. “We were able to convince them that since the office has a public function it was a good fit for the area.”
That means open. Rock Health’s first floor office is more window than wall, with three faces exposed to the public with floor-to-ceiling glass. “They want to have a public face, so people can walk down the street and say, ‘Oh, this is Rock Health,'” said Pignolet.
A series of raw wooden ribs run the length of the ceiling, one every few feet. They’re decorative, framing the space and contrasting with the concrete floors and polished marble tabletops, but also function as attach points for lighting fixtures and a sunshade.
“One of my favorite design elements in the new space is the LED lighting along the top of the street-side windows,” said Amanda Cashin, PhD, who serves as senior vice president of Life Science at Alexandria Real Estate, which partnered with Rock Health on the project. “When cars pass along Third Street at night, they’re drawn in by the colorful lighting and can capture a glimpse into the collaborative digital health innovations occurring inside.”
But by far the biggest feature of Rock Health’s office is its ability to adapt to the company’s needs.
“[Rock Health] needed a lot of flexibility. They have their staff. They also have their classes of start-ups that come through. And then they also have a lot of public events,” said Pignolet.
The solution was simple. “There’s a garage door in the middle that opens up so they can use the whole length of the space or divide it into zones,” Pignolet continued. “They can have an event going on and still work on the other side. There’s an acoustic separation.” Most of the furniture is also on wheels, to accommodate the collaborative and open environment Rock Health has cultivated for start-ups to intermingle and share ideas.
Two companies, two very different aspects of the healthcare industry, but both are bringing change to a field that has been reluctant to let go of tradition.
Photography by Eric Rorer & Bruce Damonte courtesy of One Medical Group and Rock Health