Image courtesy of St. Anthony's Medical Center
St. Anthony's Medical Center is hoping to raise the bar when it comes to cardiovascular care in St. Louis, beginning with a recently completed Heart Specialty Center that includes state-of-the-art features for staff, and a variety of amenities for patients and their families.
"The Heart Specialty Center (HSC) was developed because a group of cardiologists here in town wanted to develop a premier heart program in St. Louis," says Dr. David Morton, medical director of the HSC. "There are a number of good heart programs in St. Louis," he says, "But no one program in St. Louis has really gone to the absolute top tier."
The new center is mean to benefit the community. "We are here to take care of our community in the best possible way," Morton says, but also adds that the HSC is not only beneficial for patients, but for physicians as well. "It's an opportunity where, for the first time, physicians really are going to be in operational control of what goes on both on the outpatient side...but also in the inpatient side, to really drive that quality level to the top-tier," he says.
Construction on the HSC began in 2008, and was completed in shifts on all parts of the already existing center. "We closed down a third of it, renovated that third, and when that was up, functional and operational, then we closed down the middle third," says Morton, and then so on and so forth for operating rooms, cath labs, and all other parts of the center, finally concluding in the spring of 2010.
A significant amount of the work done to patient rooms in the HSC focused on a peaceful, relaxing healing process—part of what Morton calls the "patient experience." He says the hospital recognizes the obvious importance of lowering infection and morbidity rates in patients, but also strives to keep in mind that "These are also people," adding, "We know that taking care of their emotional and spiritual needs is very important to them—to improving their medical health, to their recovery." Rooms are outfitted in accordance with a biophilic design—building-wide decor that incorporates nature themes which promote healing—as well as special features, such as easily accessible large showers, fold-away toilets, and motion-activated sinks.
Views of and access to the new outdoor Healing Garden are also a key part of the redesign of the HSC, as well as part of the biophilic design. Meant to be plentiful in every season, the garden includes bamboo, a variety of trees and flowers, as well as benches and fountains.
And so far, Morton says, patient response to the new room features has been positive. "It's very open. There's lots of light," he says, adding, "They have huge picture windows in all of the patient rooms. It lets the sun in and we really have had tremendous patient reaction to that."
Morton also says the improvements to the HSC are beneficial not only to the patient, but also to relatives of the patient, as well as to staff. Improvements made to patient rooms include the addition a sleeper sofa for family members. "Oftentimes I think the families almost get forgotten in the whole thing, with everybody concentrating on the patient. We want to make sure that we cater to their needs as well," Morton says.
And larger screens and equipment which comes down from the ceiling allows for surgical suites with better visuals and more room to move around. "It's just made it so much more of a pleasant environment for us to work in while we're doing our procedures," which Morton feels "ultimately gets translated down to the patient, especially in times of stress."
With a balanced focus on both the patient's medical and emotional needs, Morton hopes this will give St. Anthony's an edge in cardiac care. "We intend to have the only top tier cardiovascular care program in St. Louis, and we are rapidly moving towards that," he says. "We have dedicated tremendous resources to make sure that that happens."