FORT WAYNE – Most people who have seen more hospitals than they care to recall probably think they know what one is supposed to look like: drab, monolithic and serviceable.
The Parkview Regional Medical Center, which opened for business Saturday, defies such expectations.
The $550 million, 1 million-square-foot medical center off Dupont Road appears to be made more of glass than concrete.
Were it not for the copious signage, the crescent-shaped main building could easily be mistaken for a premium hotel.
Inside, the atrium is as high and light-filled as a cathedral.
In fact, everything about the medical center seems to be a conscious attempt to renounce the claustrophobic and window-deficient interiors of some older hospitals.
We spent a lot of time looking at windows, said Sue Ehinger, chief operating officer of Parkview Hospital. We wanted to embrace every opportunity to let natural light come in.
She said light helps patients heal and boosts employees morale.
An indoor waterfall and outdoor patio are designed to facilitate the coming together of employees and, theoretically, a subsequent discovery of solutions, Ehinger said.
Much of the design of the hospitals rooms and floors was accomplished via numerous mock-ups built on Parkviews Randallia campus, Ehinger said.
Ehinger said nurses provided continuous input, and the mock-up rooms were repeatedly disassembled and rebuilt to address fresh concerns.
All 446 rooms in the Parkview Regional Medical Center are single-occupancy, Ehinger said.
Ehinger said the double-occupancy design is inefficient in that patients are not always easily or quickly paired and often must be transferred.
Also, single-occupancy rooms lead to increased privacy, discretion and peace of mind, she said.
We want families to be involved with care, Ehinger said, We need to do whatever we can to facilitate and promote that participation, she said.
Rooms are grouped into pods, she said, 12 patients to a pod.
Each room has a family area with a fold-out couch and two digital televisions equipped with Android technology, said Ron Double, Parkviews chief information officer.
Eventually, he said, the patient and the patients family members will be able to access movies, games, music, the Internet and selected information and videos about the patients condition through these televisions.
Double said the smart bed in each room is designed to remember a patients specific recumbency issues and to alert a nurse if he or she has left any part of the bed in the wrong position.
When a patient presses the call button, it doesnt just turn on a light or buzzer.
A message goes directly to the assigned nurses modified iPhone, he said.
The real-time location of all caregivers will be monitored and recorded by way of the badges they wear, Double said.
The badge triggers a digital log documenting when a medical professional enters a room and when he or she leaves it, he said.
Each room has its own patient lift or hoist, Double said, and its own computer for accessing medical records.
No more will nurses and medical technicians have to push around COWs (aka Computers on Wheels).
Cardiologist Ray Dusman said there is no tub or shower stall in patient bathrooms.
Instead, the entire bathroom was designed to function as a shower stall and the floor has a drain for the water.
This way there is nothing for the patient to have to step over or into.
One of our biggest concerns is preventing falls, Dusman said.
The pod configuration allows nurses more ready access to the supplies they need, Ehinger said, because each pod will be as fully stocked as is feasible.
What cant be stocked will be brought by TUG.
TUGs are both the medical centers most surprising technological innovation and its most surprising new staffers.
They are robotic couriers designed to bring medicines, food, paper records and linens where they are needed.
Charlie Licata is director of implementation services at Pittsburgh-based Aethon, the maker of TUGs.
He said the medical centers TUGs are designed to help nurses spend more time with their patients.
Now employees who are trained to do specialties wont have to waste time walking the floors delivering things, Licata said. It keeps nurses and technicians with their patients.
Licata said the medical centers 22 TUGs will travel most days a total of 20 to 25 miles at a typical speed of 20 inches a second through Parkviews hallways and elevators.
Medicines carried by TUGs will have radio-frequency identification tags attached to them so they can be better tracked, Licata said.
A TUG resembles a futuristic version of a physicians scale.
The appointed rounds of one such TUG, as viewed by this reporter, included detecting obstacles, summoning elevators electronically, advising other elevator riders to stand aside and reminding them to push the button for their floor.
Licata said that if a TUG is unsure of the exact nature of an obstacle, it will alert a remote human driver in Pittsburgh.
That driver will switch on an onboard camera and steer the TUG manually, Licata said
Licata said many of the operations of a typical hospital do not happen in plain sight or happen less obtrusively at Parkview Regional Medical Center.
Thats wonderful for the patient, he said.
Licata, who has visited many hospitals as a representative for Aethon, said he is particularly impressed with Parkview Regional Medical Center.
I have been in 300 of them, and I have never seen anything like this, he said.
As for Parkviews Randallia campus, Parkview spokesman John Perlich said a select group made up of neighborhood leaders, business owners and elected officials were brought in to help plan for the future of the old hospital near East State Boulevard.
I would say theyre pleased what Randallia campus is going to become, he said. Were looking at having at least 150 beds and a full-service 24/7 ER. And well continue to have surgeries, birthing services and labs.
Perlich said there will be additional educational opportunities on the Randallia campus as well.
Critical-care services, however, such as intensive care, the Heart Institute and trauma care, have all moved to the north campus, he said.