Founded in 1942 as the first multispecialty physician practice in New Orleans, Ochsner Health has evolved into Louisiana’s largest nonprofit academic healthcare system with 40 owned, managed, or affiliated hospitals and specialty hospitals, along with more than 100 health and urgent care centers. During the past three decades, much of that expansion has been taking place in Baton Rouge, which sits about 80 miles northwest of its hometown, including a 150-bed hospital on the city’s east side and about 15 smaller clinics throughout its metropolitan area.
In mid-2019, the system opened the largest single investment in its history—the Ochsner Medical Complex – The Grove, a $116 million microhospital with surgical center and medical office building all under one roof on the city’s west side.
Traffic snarls in Baton Rouge were a major factor in the expansion, as crosstown commutes are difficult there. “Baton Rouge has some of the worst traffic in the Gulf South,” says Jay Britsch, vice president, facilities at Ochsner Health (New Orleans, La.). “As a result, we wanted to create a one-stop shop that would minimize patients and their families’ exposure to that traffic by providing access to multiple medical specialties in a single visit.”
For example, Britsch says Ochsner views the microhospital at the complex as an extension of its existing hospital on the city’s east side. The 10-bed unit, in a single-story wing on one end of the building, includes its own entry and lobby, 10 beds, four endometriosis-pain procedure rooms, and 34 pre/post-surgery beds. The surgical center houses four operating rooms, endoscopy and interventional imaging rooms, endoscope processing, restricted sterile supply, equipment storage, sterile processing, and staff lounge/locker rooms.
The relatively small number of beds at the microhospital reflects the increased emphasis on outpatient care, which is made more convenient through the complex’s MOB, which comprises 250 exam/treatment rooms, a first-floor “O Bar” (a space modeled after Apple’s “Genius Bar” that allows patients and their families to get familiar with the online services/apps offered by Ochsner), café, radiology lab, retail pharmacy, vision center, and physical therapy space with its own entry and adjacent parking. Clinical care includes a variety of specialties, including nuclear medicine, pulmonary care, and infusion therapy.
Beyond offering a mix of services, the hospital system had another underlying goal for the development: To help reduce the fear and anxiety many people feel while accessing medical care. “We worked very hard with our architecture/design partner, Grace Hebert Curtis (GHC; Baton Rouge, La.), to make sure all parts of the project act harmoniously with each other,” Britsch said. “The aesthetics of the overall site, as well as building’s exterior and interior, create a low-stress environment which helps foster reduced anxiety among patients and visitors.”
Setting the right environment
That objective first manifests itself in the complex’s entry and exit experience for those driving to the facility, with direct access to the site offered via a main highway as well as a new bridge and service road. As motorists approach the entrances to the complex, they encounter a traffic circle that slows vehicles down. “Further helping arrivals relax are a series of decompression steps, including rich landscaping around the entrances and a wood-finished, covered drop-off,” says Gerald D. Hebert II, GHC’s president and principal-in-charge of the project. Additionally, a large screen element bearing the Ochsner “Life-Mark” logo helps guide motorists to the visitor drop-off.
Inside, the entry experiences of both the microhospital and MOB offer contemporary, hospitality-inspired atrium lobbies that feature abundant natural lighting; decorative and architectural lighting fixtures; and soft, organic textures and surfaces. The design team also incorporated a central angled “knuckle” in the overall layout, which links the hospital and the MOB and is anchored on the first floor by the on-site pharmacy. (On the floors above, it’s used for medical offices.)
The “knuckle” serves both aesthetic and operational functions, Hebert says. “The angled element reduces the length of straight interior corridors, avoiding a ‘tunnel effect’ and also allowing a greater northern exposure—and therefore more natural light—along the front of the building,” he explains.
The central organizing concept within the complex’s MOB is the use of modular pods. “The core of each pod includes the nurse’s stations, support areas, and provider work areas, as well as restrooms,” Hebert explains. “The relationship between the nurses’ station and provider work area creates a team approach to patient care, with everyone working together, rather than separate provider offices not associated with the nurses’ station.”
Each pod, in turn, is surrounded by exam rooms, treatment rooms, and clinic access from the lobbies on each floor. “With this arrangement, clinics are able to grow into the adjacent pod without the need to renovate the perimeter patient areas, as there are no obstructions there. In addition, exit stairs, mechanical, electrical, elevators, and IT were arranged around the perimeter of the building to facilitate clinic expansion from pod to pod,” Hebert says.
Designers also paid close attention to adjacencies. “Services that are typically required during a single patient encounter or string of encounters were grouped together,” Hebert says. “For example, orthopedics is located near both imaging and physical therapy. Similarly, ophthalmology is next to the retail vision center. While those co-locations and others may seem like a small detail, it adds up to lower stress in the overall patient experience.”
Adding to the typical challenges associated with projects of this scale was a tight construction timetable of 24 months. “To help make that happen, the project was designed for rapid deployment and installation by using prefabricated curtain walls and massive precast concrete wall panels,” Hebert says. “The HVAC and plumbing systems were fabricated off-site, then lifted into place on-site. This innovative approach expedited installation of multiple stories of piping and systems in, keeping the project within budget and schedule.”
Since its opening, the facility has been quite popular, Britsch says. As evidence of that, he notes that some of the shell space included in the building is already being converted, including a pediatrics clinic on the fifth floor of the MOB that’s expected to open by the end of the year.
Other, longer-term expansion opportunities built into the complex’s design include the opportunity to add four additional operating rooms adjacent to the existing ones on the first floor of the microhospital, a second floor above those ORs, and up to three additional floors atop the MOB. “It’s functional, efficient and user-friendly for patients, families and staff,” says Britsch. “It fully reflects our goal of becoming the model for what a 21st century healthcare provider should be.”
Matthew Hall is a freelance writer/editor based in Cincinnati. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Project name: Ochsner Medical Complex – The Grove
Project completion date: May 2019
Owner: Ochsner Health System
Total building area: 253,539 sq. ft.
Total construction cost: $116 million
Cost/sq. ft.: $310
Architecture: Grace Hebert Curtis Architects
Interior design: Grace Hebert Curtis Architects
General Contractor: The Lemoine Co.
Engineering: Duplantis Design Group (civil); Huseman & Associates (MEP); Fox-Nesbit Engineering (structural); Rotolo Consultants (landscape)
Carpet/flooring: Mannington, Armstrong, BPI & Coastal Tile, Oceanside Glass & Tile, Tarkett, Venable Terrazzo, GrassTex
Ceiling/wall systems: Armstrong, USG
Doors/locks/hardware: Himmel’s Architectural Door & Hardware
Handrails/wall guards: InPro Architectural Products
Headwalls/booms: Modular Services Co., Stryker
Lighting: 3form LightArt, Peerless, Barbican, Visa, Cerno, Betacalco, Eureka, Hammerton, LumenArt
Surfaces—solid/other: 3form, Corian & Staron, Formica, Nevamar, Dackor, Laminart, Wilsonart
Wallcoverings: Interlam & Soelberg, Lightwave Laser, MDC, Innovations, Koroseal, Designtex, Len-Tex, Solyx