New Hospital Incorporates Livable Features Proven to Speed Recovery

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Fort Belvoir, VA – The new 120-bed Fort Belvoir Community Hospital (FBCH) is far from the typical hospital with institutional green cinderblock walls lining dark hallways.

The facility, which opened last month in the national capital region, has ample natural light and large windows that look out to nature. Pavilions that connect to the main hospital concourse are named for natural scenes, such as meadows and sunrise, and the patient rooms are designed with the idea that family members may sleep there, as well.

“It is one of the most technologically advanced in evidence-based design hospitals in the country today,” DeWitt Health Care Network Commander Col. Susan Annicelli  said at a press conference at the hospital in August. “It really provides an environment and backdrop that speaks to the commitment of world-class care for warriors past, present and for the families who have supported them over time.”

Evidence-based design (EBD), as defined by the Center for Health Design, is the process of basing decisions about structure design on credible research to achieve the best possible outcomes and is a growing trend in hospital construction around the country. “We are trying to break out of the mold of what people might think of when they think of a healthcare facility,” Debra Levin, president and CEO for the Center for Health Design, told U.S. Medicine. “It doesn’t need to be what you might conjure up in your mind.”

Evidence-based design principles

In some ways EBD is similar to evidence-based medicine, according to  Rick Repeta, MD, director of Integration and Transition at FBCH. 

“Really, what we are interested in is what is the best for the healing of the patient, for the speed of their recovery and for their perception of care. What evidence-based design helps us to do is to design a hospital to maximize those outcomes,” Repeta told U.S. Medicine.

The Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, another BRAC-mandated military facility in the Washington area, includes both new and renovated construction and incorporates elements of EBD. However, FBCH was different because it was built from the ground up and could be designed from scratch.

“We are one of, if not the first, DoD facility to be heavily invested [in EBD],” Repeta said.

Because studies suggest that exposure to natural light in the hospital can help patients recover, for example, it was heavily considered in the design of the facility. Large windows are in all of the patient rooms and throughout the facility so patients can look out at the trees and other greenery that surround the facility.

Outside gardens also are available for patients, their families and staff.

“There is a lot of good evidence that exposure to natural light reduces healing time. It improves patients’ perception of care,” said Repeta. “In many ways, that will improve their outcome, that is a part of the evidence behind this facility in bringing in all of the natural light.”

The hospital was also built with single patient rooms that include fold out beds for family members, private bathrooms and individual televisions. Single patient rooms are thought to reduce the spread of infections and have become the standard in most newly-constructed hospitals.

Areas of the hospital are color coded to help patients and their families find their way around.

In addition, smart suite technology will be incorporated into all of the patient rooms. Patients will see the photo and name of staff members on a screen before they enter the room.

Another EBD element is the way sinks are highlighted by mosaic tile on the wall to attract the attention of healthcare personnel.

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