An Environment that Conveys Passion

Posted by on May 10, 2019 in Featured Artists and Inspirations
An Environment that Conveys Passion

In Chicago, Illinois, there is a stellar example of patient-centered design. That example is the Northwestern Memorial Hospital, particularly it’s emergency department (ED). The ED recently underwent a renovation done by HKS, a world-renown company well known for their architects and interior design team. The renovation resulted in an emergency department that puts patient experience first.

A case study on the HKS website showcases Northwestern Memorial Hospital’s Emergency Department, an environment that conveys passion for patients.

Northwestern Memorial Hospital Emergency Department Renovation

The Challenge

To create an environment in which Northwestern Memorial Hospital (NMH) can offer the best care for the 110,000 patients who come to the emergency department (ED) annually. Northwestern challenged our team to create an environment that would improve patient satisfaction, offer greater privacy, increase security and improve treatment team communication.

The Design Solution

The HKS design improves patient privacy by creating a welcoming environment that fosters upmost discretion. Designers considered what patients need during every step of their journey, whether waiting for results, receiving treatment, or discussing results and next steps with providers. To improve security, we designed a sequence of spaces ranging from secure entryways to safe rooms, infectious disease treatment areas and secure interior doors that can divide the ED into separate units. The goal is to offer everyone in the ED a secure environment that is easily, reliably controlled. Finally, the design also improves treatment team communication. Team stations throughout the ED that have a similar design language so that as staff rotate through the ED, they are familiar with their environment.

Using an evidence-based design approach, we created an innovative new element within the ED which we call ED pods. These compact environments are inspired by first-class seating in airlines, where many people are comfortably served by a small number of staff. ED pods enable more patients to be treated throughout the ED in less space, in less time with a higher level of amenity and comfort. The pods are approximately ¼ the size of typical exam room, yet contain:

  1. An adjustable, ergonomic recliner that converts into a treatment stretcher at a moment’s notice.
  2. Lighting that the patient and medical staff can control, with three distinct settings: exam, relaxation, intermediate.
  3. A curved wall behind the patient focuses sound traveling between caregiver and patient to increase privacy.
  4. The curved wall also discretely stores medical supplies including oxygen, vacuum, physiologic monitoring, thermometers, sharps, gloves.
  5. A collapsible chair for one family member.
  6. Storage for patient belongings, and power to charge their electronic devices.

The Design Impact

The redesign enables NMH to move patients in and out of the ED more quickly in an environment that conveys compassion, offers a higher level of safety than the previous space, and enables treatment teams to offer seamless, highly efficient care. By introducing different kinds of spaces for assessment, treatment, observation and waiting for results, the new design reduces wait times between steps in the patient journey.

Project Features

  • 15,000 square feet
  • Reception desk for pivot nurses to separate patients into high and low acuity on arrival
  • Biophilic finishes in waiting rooms ease stress
  • Intake pods to evaluate less acute patients
  • ED pods for patients awaiting test results
  • High-isolation room with donning and doffing room
  • Centrally-located teaming pods

Marie Wikoff is the creator of Wikoff Design Studio based out of Reno, Nevada. Her expertise in healthcare design has helped modernize healthcare organizations locally, regionally, and internationally, improving patient experience and outcomes. Her credentials include Evidence-Based Design Accreditation and Certification (EDAC), American Academy of Healthcare Interior Designer (CHID), the National Council of Interior Design Qualification (NCIDQ) and LEED AP. Contact Marie Wikoff


“Northwestern Memorial Hospital Emergency Department Renovation | HKS Architects.” Northwestern Memorial Hospital Emergency Department Renovation | HKS Architects, 2019,

Leave a Reply