At Dayton Children’s Hospital, they listened to the kids.

As the hospital considered the design of its $153 million patient tower, architects and hospital leaders called on a group of patients and families to see what they thought the new structure should look like, both inside and out. (Color changing paint made the list, naturally.) 

They invited them for a test run of full-scale models of the rooms, constructed at nearby TechTown in downtown Dayton. Nurses and doctors joined them to see how the design would work for them, too. 

“We made decisions about spaces from family and kids input that I’m not sure we would have done if we had just relied on the clinicians and architects,” says Cindy Burger, vice president of patient experience who is overseeing the project. 

Set to open in 2017, Children’s patient tower is one of the largest, both in cost and scale, health care construction projects underway in the Dayton region. It’s far from the only one, however, as local hospital networks invest in facilities on both their inpatient campuses and beyond. Both Premier Health Partners and Kettering Health Network have projects opening or in the works. 

The dirt continues to move for many reasons: rehabbing or replacing aging facilities, a pursuit of private rooms, increase in outpatient procedures, and a push to bring services closer to home for as many people as possible through stand-alone emergency departments and testing centers. 

Even as Dayton’s economy has ebbed and flowed, the local health care industry has been a stalwart of jobs and dollars into region. The 26 local hospitals have a combined $6.7 billion economic impact, according to the Greater Dayton Area Hospital Association. In recent years, Kettering Health Network opened a brand new hospital, the $135 million Raj and Indu Soin Medical Center opened in Beavercreek, and Premier launched and expanded Miami Valley South in Centerville. While those systems are not investing in new facilities at that magnitude in the next year, they are continuing to build or renovate a flurry of other projects, as well as invest significant dollars into informational technology. 

Changing Hospital Campuses

At the helm of Dayton Children’s new tower is Burger. Burger, vice president for patient experience, is also a registered nurse. Her years working directly with patients, families and clinicians make her acutely aware of patient safety and satisfaction. She knows that kids coming to a hospital are already scared, and their parents are, too. That makes the design of a building and modern capabilities even more critical. The new tower is family friendly and medically sophisticated: a rooftop garden and play area, color-changing exterior paint that goes from blue to green, and flight-themed floors to tie into Dayton’s history of innovation. Smart TVs allow patients to do homework online or stream movies and games. Rooms will be bigger to accommodate families, whose presence is critical in pediatric care. 

The neonatal intensive care unit will have all private rooms with breast pumps and more space for parents to rest and be with their babies. Pediatric cancer patients will find their inpatient and outpatient services combined in one location, along with a satellite pharmacy. 

The plans for the new tower have helped draw in new pediatric specialists. The hospital has hired more than two-dozen specialists in recent months, and expects that to grow as the new tower opens. 

She’s proud that 90 percent of the contractors are local, an effort she says construction management company Danis Construction has supported. 

“The community is very supportive of us so in turn we are want to be supportive of the community—and use local contractors as much as possible,” Burger says.

From the inpatient standpoint, hospitals are looking to convert semi-private rooms to private rooms. Kettering, Children’s and Premier have invested in private rooms in their various hospitals. 

Kettering has also called on its patients for advice in constructing a $50 million cancer care center on its main hospital campus in Kettering. The center will consolidate cancer care into one location and is being designed to create more peaceful, private settings for chemotherapy and other treatments. It should open in late 2016. 

Outpatient Brings Emergency Rooms, Surgeries Close to Home

A trip to the emergency room or for an outpatient surgery is getting shorter. Hospitals are moving to consumer-oriented care, and having locations within various communities is key to that strategy.

Children’s announced a $47.5 million expansion of its Springboro Outpatient Care Center in July. The expansion, set to roll out in stages over the next two years, will include a 16-room emergency department, medical office building and outpatient surgery center with four operating rooms. 

Kettering Health Network has opened free-standing emergency departments in Franklin and Preble County. Premier Health Partners in November opened a $28 million expansion to its Good Samaritan North Health Center in Englewood, which includes a 22-bed emergency department. Premier is also opening $11 million facility in Mason that includes an emergency department, and one in Jamestown.

The training of board certified emergency doctors gives the networks confidence to open farther-flung emergency departments, says Richard Haas, senior vice president of Kettering Health Network. For Children’s, the Springboro emergency room is a response to a growing pediatric population in the southern suburbs.

“The quicker someone gets to an emergency department the more likely their life will be spared,” Haas says.

A shift to consumer-centric care is triggering the emergency departments and outpatient centers, but it is also propelling the hospitals to invest heavily in information technology, says Craig Self, chief strategy officer at Premier. Self says Premier will spend more on IT than facilities in coming years. They are also finding ways to partner with existing primary care physicians to extend their reach and to invest in mobile technology vans for services such as mammography. 

Bringing health care close to home is starting to mean not leaving home for those who like electronic visits. As more patients are looking for ways to communicate with their doctors via Skype or through chat, the hospitals are answering that demand, Self says. “The future capital won’t be in bricks and mortar, but IT,” he says.