Archive Surgical Construction 2019

Cancer Scare Continues to Inspire Patient-Friendly Designs

Q&A with Deborah Wingler, PhD, MSD-HHE, EDAC, patient advocate and creator of healing healthcare spaces.


Why are you passionate about reinventing the way facilities look?
When my oldest daughter was 6 years old, she was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer and given 3 days to live. I was devastated, as you can imagine. Doctors had to inject her central nervous system with chemotherapy drugs to keep her alive and, thankfully, we just celebrated the 20th year of her being cancer free. Sitting in sterile, whitewashed hospital rooms while her life hung in the balance changed the trajectory of my life and dramatically altered my worldview. My original degree was in biochemistry and forensics but, after my daughter got sick, I refocused my career path on revolutionizing healthcare design.

How can surgical design promote patient-centered care?
New facilities use adjacencies in physical layouts to maximize touchpoints between providers and patients’ family members. For example, it’s important for surgeons to update loved ones after surgery, but it’s more difficult for those interactions to occur when the waiting room is far from the ORs. Private meeting spaces are now being built within steps of pre- and post-op areas to limit the amount of ground surgeons need to cover to meet with family members.

What are you doing to change how patients experience surgery?
More than 90% of children undergo anesthetic induction alone in the OR, and they’re often emotionally unprepared for entering an environment where lights are bright and masked providers are preparing the room for surgery. After what I went through with my daughter, I’m very interested in finding ways to lessen the anxiety of pediatric patients and their parents during that time.

What can be done to make anesthesia less frightening for them?
I’ve helped design induction rooms, which are built adjacent to ORs. Children are anesthetized in a warm environment by an unmasked anesthesia provider. The darkened rooms have LED light constellation patterns on the ceiling and parents can hold their children’s hands throughout the process. Moving forward, I think facilities will incorporate designs like this to increase points of contact between family members and patients at appropriate points throughout their care.

Do induction rooms improve surgical care in other ways?
Yes, through parallel processing. Having patients undergo anesthesia induction while the OR is being prepared for them significantly reduces the amount of time they spend in pre-op. The longer patients wait, the more stressed they get, so induction rooms reduce patient anxiety and increase efficiencies. It’s a concept that fosters friendlier, faster care, and I think that’s the future of surgical design. OSM

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