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Planned Cancer Center Stresses Patient Experience, Evidence-based Design

Marianne Aiello, for HealthLeaders Media, December 10, 2009

When M. D. Anderson Banner Cancer Center opens its doors in Gilbert, AZ, in fall 2010, its first patients will have the benefit of testing out features that were made with them in mind. Not the latest clinical technology or electronic medical system—though there will be plenty of that—but rather water features, gathering spaces, a massage parlor, and an appearance center.

The cancer center, which is a joint venture between Phoenix-based 22-hospital Banner Health and the University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center, is designed with an emphasis on evidence-based design and patient and family experience.

"We're very much of a high-tech provision of care, but we always make sure that's coupled with making sure it's high touch," says Pam Nenaber, CEO for Banner Gateway Medical Center, also in Gilbert, AZ. "The high-tech around you and the convenience to provide the right care gives you the opportunity to provide that high touch. We also make sure we integrate the family into the patient care setting so we take a lot of care thinking about where the family will be waiting and how the family is incorporated into the care rooms."

Executives organized focus groups made up of local patients whom they consulted with throughout the design process. They plan on eliciting more focus group feedback during construction to be sure they're on track. Workers broke ground on the planned 120,000 square foot, three-story building on December 1. The center will support outpatient services, including physician clinics, medical imaging, radiation oncology, and infusion therapy.

Cancer centers need to pay especially close attention to the patient experience and evidence-based design because of the extent of the patients' and families' involvement.

"Cancer patients typically will be at a facility for an extended period of time—getting testing, seeing physicians, and receiving treatments," says Margaret Row, MD, MBA, associate vice president of global clinical programs at M.D. Anderson. "So we try to make the environment as comfortable as possible by using the outside environment."

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