LAKE FOREST — Planning for the new Northwestern Medicine Lake Forest Hospital started with research.
The research was not only about medicine; it also included learning from the people who are around the hospital every day. Patients, nurses and technicians were asked what they liked and disliked about the existing facility built 70 years ago and what they wanted in a new hospital.
Already operating all but one of its 15 outpatient clinics at the new facility since September 25, the new, nearly 500,000-square-foot, $400 million hospital will begin caring for inpatients March 3.
“We’ll start moving patients at 6 a.m. and we’ll be done by noon that day,” said Dr. Jeffery Kopin, a Highland Park resident and the hospital’s senior vice president and chief medical officer.
Hospital personnel got some unplanned practice moving patients last summer when the hospital was closed July 12 for six days due to a power failure caused by a record rain.
“That unintended event of the flood gave us an idea of what we would have to do on March 3,” said Kopin.
Thomas J. McAfee, president of Northwestern Medicine North Region and a Lake Bluff resident, said in July the hospital prepares and drills for a possible evacuation. There have been dry runs leading up to the coming move.
The package of the latest in medical technology and care is coupled with an environment designed to make patients, both those coming for outpatient treatment and those staying overnight, as comfortable as possible, according to Kopin.
With a new building approximately 140,000 square feet larger than the old one just to the south, Kopin said the number of beds is the same. Unlike the old building, every patient will have a private room. When the new facility opens, Kopin said, a new computer system will go live for the entire Northwestern system, adding efficiency and safety.
When Northwestern Medicine officials wanted to know what makes a stay as pleasant as possible, they asked patients, according to Kopin and McAfee. They also asked nurses and technicians what would help them do a better job for patients, and those ideas were implemented.
“This hospital represents the best way we can deliver care and medicine today,” said McAfee. “We will be able to do most of the things Northwestern Medicine can do downtown (at Northwestern Memorial Hospital).”
When patients, visitors and others come into the front doors of the main entrance at 1000 Westmoreland Road, they see a reception desk to their left and straight ahead glass windows looking out on a lake created for the new building. Kopin said few questions are needed to send people in the right direction.
“How can I help you,” said receptionist Nicole Cartwright when Kopin asked her how guests are welcomed. “If they are going to a clinic I tell them to turn left. If they are here for treatment, I tell them to turn right.”
Before making the right or left turn, people come to a circular rotunda stretching from the basement to the roof. They look down to the cafeteria tables.
Lakefront Is Expansive
There is also a quarter-mile walkway spanning the man-made lake. Kopin said should patients be well enough during good weather, they can walk along the lake. Their visitors can walk there too. Should people need hospital care, McAfee and Kopin say they want it to be as pleasant as possible.
The new hospital’s clinics offer clinical trials for issues such as fertility that are available at few other places in the country, McAfee said.
Not only do inpatients have their own room, each room has a couch that turns into a bed if a family member wants to spend the night. The nurses’ work area has a single light pointing straight down.
“It’s designed so the nurses can work and not disturb patients, (especially) if they are sleeping,” said Kopin. “If they need something they go outside to the closet and bring it in,” he added referring to supply closets outside each room.
All patient-care rooms have a private bathroom. They also have a color change in the flooring a few feet in. Kopin said this lets doctors, nurses and other staff communicate directly even if the patient is highly contagious.
“We don’t have to gown up as long as we don’t cross that line,” said Kopin. “We can still see the patients and talk to them. If we need to get closer we go outside to the closet, (get what we need) and gown up.”
Design of Equipment Took Planning
Headboards behind each bed, whether in a sleeping room or one crafted for outpatient surgery, are built to make it easier for staff and patients. Kopin said input for each outlet for equipment came from nurses and other caregivers. When a task is complete, a button by the door is pushed quietly, letting the next person ready to serve the patient know it is his or her turn.
Throughout the ground floor where people come for services such as blood tests, the waiting areas are deliberately small. Kopin said the facilities are designed to get people in and out quickly with a minimum of discomfort.
The new computerized record-keeping system is for all of Northwestern Medicine, according to McAfee. It does not matter if the patient is at the large hospital on Chicago’s Near North Side or in a standalone clinic in the suburbs.
Part of the change in Lake Forest is philosophical. Built on a 160-acre campus, there is a health club nearby for the public. There are also 1.5 miles of walking trails that include the walkway in front of the lake.
“This is a destination for wellness,” said Kopin.