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The Hospital of the Future Has Arrived

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Northwestern Medicine Lake Forest Hospital sets a high bar for hospital design

Northwestern Medicine Lake Forest Hospital has been serving patients for more than 100 years, but that doesn’t mean it’s old fashioned. Located on a sprawling 160-acre campus in Lake Forest, Illinois, leaders at Lake Forest Hospital spent years planning to open a new facility on the same campus to replace the former building. The team set out to design a hospital that incorporated the latest innovations to deliver world-class care and an excellent experience for patients, staff and physicians.

The years of planning paid off. Every detail of the new facility was well thought-out, resulting in a comfortable, efficient and state-of-the-art hospital.

A Park With a Hospital in It

Visiting a hospital can produce anxiety, but the setting at Lake Forest Hospital is calming. A walking and biking path meanders through the campus and allows patients, visitors and community residents to enjoy the beautiful ponds and waterfall adjacent to the building. Nearly 650 new trees and other plantings give the campus its park-like feel.

While the hospital itself is a massive 500,000-square-foot glass and steel structure, its low profile and crescent shape allows the building to curve around the pond and blend into the surrounding landscape. Created as a series of pavilions, the hospital is simple to navigate, with just three entrance points — a main entrance, a north entrance for its cancer center and a south entrance for the Emergency Department and Labor and Delivery.

Easy Wayfinding

Through the main entrance is the John and Kathy Schreiber main lobby. Wayfinding is simple with the visible water feature outside that acts as a navigation point, and visitors are faced with a simple decision — turn left for clinic spaces or turn right for ambulatory care.

Below ground is an internal concourse that allows staff to move throughout the hospital, transporting patients, accepting deliveries and performing other daily tasks, while protecting the privacy of patients and reducing traffic in the main hallways and elevators.

Quiet, Please

A mainstay of the traditional hospital is the sounds of beeps, warning tones and an overhead intercom system that announces codes and pages day and night. Lake Forest Hospital has helped eliminate this noise by adopting a smartphone messaging system.

Each caregiver will pick up an iPhone at the start of his or her shift. The device is linked to the patient monitoring system and the nurse call system, so if a patient alarm goes off or a patient presses the nurse call button, caregivers assigned to that patient will receive a message that includes the patient’s name and the specific alert. For example, if a patient’s blood pressure drops, the care team will see that on the phone and can respond immediately.

The smartphone system is not only smarter, it’s quieter than the technology previously in use. The previous Lake Forest Hospital used a phone call system for simple requests from patients, such as a glass of water. But the ringing phones could sometimes be disruptive when providing patient care.

Efficiency Enhances Experience

The internal hospital layout is designed with patients and caregivers in mind.

  • Diagnostic testing is located near exam rooms to eliminate the need to travel through winding corridors for a test. For example, stress testing is offered across the hall from cardiology.
  • Pneumatic tubes in every inpatient unit allow care teams to deliver orders to, and receive items from, the laboratory and pharmacy, eliminating the need to leave the unit and keeping the care team close to patients.
  • Patient rooms and operating rooms are all designed the same, making it easy for caregivers to deliver consistent care.
  • A 40-bed universal care center is designed to provide pre- and post-procedure care for patients who have surgery or other invasive procedures. The space is located next to the Emergency Department and can accept additional patients if the ED rooms are full.

State-of-the-Art Equipment

Of course, the hospital of the future would not be complete without state-of-the-art technology.

  • New patient monitors have a docking system that allows them to be moved with the patient. That means when patients are transported or undergoing diagnostic procedures, they can still be continually monitored with the same device. The monitor can be undocked in the patient room, attached to an IV pole or bed, moved with the patient, and then docked again when the patient returns to the room.
  • Operating rooms feature a state-of-the-art audio/visual system. Each OR has 4K monitors that display more detail, allowing surgeons to see better through scopes. Indocyanine green (ICG) fluorescent technology also enhances surgeons’ ability to visualize the parts of the body on which they are operating. State-of-the-art surgical lights feature an advanced shadow reduction feature, which automatically adjusts to remove any shadow if someone moves in front of a light.
  • A new linear accelerator offers advanced treatment for tumors.
  • A new PET/CT diagnostic machine, one of only a few in the U.S. and the first in Illinois, features a larger bore that is more comfortable for larger patients. It also provides a more complete picture, meaning that images no longer have to be pieced together.
  • A second MRI machine — a 3 Tesla MRI machine — was added to increase the number and types of MRIs the hospital can perform.

Better Patient Care

Lake Forest Hospital’s design all adds up to one thing: better patient care. Those who planned the design — from those who chose the bricks, planned the signage and installed a wood-fired pizza oven in the café, to those who selected the technology and established new workflows — were motivated to ensure that patients have an excellent experience at the hospital. Their efforts have delivered.

Learn more about the new Northwestern Medicine Lake Forest Hospital at

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