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TriPoint Medical Center built for patients, not for economics

Building a brand-new, full-service hospital is a rare event — even in Northeast Ohio, a region that explodes with hospital renovation and expansion projects, and new specialty hospitals and outpatient treatment centers. When Lake Health System decided it was less expensive to build a new hospital in the suburbs than to renovate an aging hospital in the city, it followed “evidence-based design” guidelines meant to produce a better environment for patients and staff.

CONCORD TOWNSHIP, Ohio — Building a brand-new, full-service hospital is a rare event — even in Northeast Ohio, a region that explodes with hospital renovation and expansion projects, and new specialty hospitals and outpatient treatment centers.

But the leaders of Lake Health System decided it was less expensive to build a new hospital in the suburbs than to renovate an aging hospital in the city. Lake Health will close its LakeEast Medical Center in downtown Painesville, Ohio, on Wednesday morning, transferring patients to TriPoint Medical Center in Concord Township, which opens at the same time.

Given the opportunity to start from scratch, the Lake County-based health system followed the “evidence-based design” guidelines of the non-profit Center for Health Design for its new hospital. These guidelines are supposed to produce an environment that boosts the quality of patient care, attracts patients and staff, increases community support, and enhances operational efficiency and productivity.

Rather than give the health system an edge on competition, Lake Health leaders hope TriPoint gives patients an edge on healing.

“We built TriPoint Medical Center not on the basis of competition,” said Cynthia Moore-Hardy, president and chief executive of the health system. “This was mission-driven. Our mission is, in its simplest form: To ensure local access, healing with compassion and superior quality with a focus on Lake County and surrounding communities.”

When Lake Health leaders decided they needed to build their $155 million hospital, they thought, ” ‘What is it that the community needs?’ and ‘How do we continuously improve upon the service and the care that we already provide?’ ” Moore-Hardy said.

They built a hospital that looks different from most others. Copious windows let in natural light. A water-like pattern on hallway floors leads caregivers and family members to patient rooms – all 119 of which are private. Room-number plates remind all who enter to “pause, reflect and heal.” Stone walls, wood floors and falling water are designed to bring nature inside the hospital. Five roof-top gardens can be seen from patient rooms and family waiting areas.

The natural setting is meant to help patients to heal and caregivers to stay focused. But features like rooftop gardens also could extend the life of the hospital’s roofs, help it manage water run-off and decrease its energy footprint, Moore-Hardy said.

“Having a new building affords the energy efficiency you can’t get in older buildings,” said Mary Ogrinc, senior vice president of patient care services and chief nursing officer. “There are less emissions. And it’s a much cleaner environment.”

Something you won’t see: An air-handling system that reduces pathogens in the air, which could lower infection rates among patients and staff. Distinctive artwork aims at soothing patients as well as guiding them to their destinations.

Gone are paper charts and clipboards at the foot of patient beds. Caregivers will use electronic medical records on computer screens located between patient rooms. Nurses will communicate with other caregivers with pencil-like communicators worn around the neck pendant-style, Ogrinc said.

“This was all about being focused on the patient and the family experience,” Moore-Hardy said. “And that was something that our medical staff, our employees and the community agreed that this should be about. That’s where the focus started. That’s where it continues to be. Of course, we’d like to grow. But that wasn’t the basis of this decision.”

Judging from the responses of community members, TriPoint leaders already are succeeding.

“We’re excited about it,” Moore-Hardy said. “We worked closely with a lot of our community advisory groups. As we’ve taken them through the building, they’ve said ‘hooray’ or hugged us. That makes us feel good, that we did meet the community need. That’s what it’s about.”

Editor’s note: Lake Health will open a temporary Quick Care Center in downtown Painesville to take care of patients who need non-emergency care. In the spring, it plans to open a full-service urgent care center in the downtown area. Area patients who need emergency care should go to Concord, beginning Wednesday.