The quote “form follows function” is one you may have heard, but you may not know who said it or why it was said. Louis Henry Sullivan, the “father” of the American skyscraper, is most commonly known for this statement and the principle is associated with modernist architecture and industrial design in the 20th century. The concept is: the shape of a building or object should be primarily based upon its intended function or purpose. Although not known for designing hospitals, Sullivan’s belief around “form follows function” holds true.

Today, many healthcare organizations are under enormous amounts of pressure with ever-changing rules and regulations demanding they work more efficiently. Replacement hospitals, surgery centers, urgent care centers, and freestanding EDs are popping up all around us as healthcare organizations respond to consumer demands for more efficient healthcare. These organizations are charged with creating exceptional experiences for their patients while maintaining quality outcomes, and at the same time, the space must be designed for a world advancing technologically at an exponential rate.

Redesigning hospitals and healthcare centers isn’t an easy job – they’re big, expensive, and highly regulated environments. With Lean-Led Design we utilize the “form follows function” thinking by creating organizational workflows to aid in the architectural design phase of the project.

Lean-Led Design is a workflow-based facility design methodology that optimizes space, people, equipment, and technology. Multidisciplinary staff members are brought together in a series of work sessions beginning with training on how to critically assess and identify waste that doesn’t bring value to the patient or the organization. Once the participants are able to see waste as waste, they are challenged to identify waste in their current workflows and physical environment. The collaborative approach quickly identifies many process improvement opportunities that may not have surfaced in a traditional departmental meeting. This prepares the participants to brainstorm and create ideal workflows for their new work environment that promote safety, efficiency, and flexibility – making the right work easier to do.

The workflow designs are then utilized to guide the architectural design to ensure an equally reliable operations model (see below).

When considering new designs, let lean principles guide your entire project team to transform organizational culture towards a future that consistently seeks to improve operations, improve quality, reduce healthcare costs and never loses sight of what is best for the patient.

As Louis Sullivan once said, “form follows function” – the purpose defines the look and shape of the building, and that’s efficiency.

Learn more about Facility Design here.


Today’s blog is written by Nicole Einbeck, a Consultant on HPP’s Facility Solutions team.

Nicole brings more than 20 years of experience in the healthcare industry. Prior to joining Vizient, Nicole worked in the Occupational/Employee Health field where she designed and successfully implemented programs focused on reducing employer costs. From there, her concentration shifted to managing the safety and liability of over 1,100 employees, providers and the patients they served as a Risk/Quality Manager where she significantly reduced her employer’s annual workers compensation premiums. Nicole’s career path then led her to assisting in the Lean transformation at Monroe Clinic. This five-year journey included the transformation of their main 100 licensed bed hospital, 10 satellite clinics and the design and construction of a new 225,000 square-foot facility.  Nicole has successfully implemented over 50 different 5S strategies in virtually every hospital and clinic setting, facilitated over three dozen Kaizen events, led 3P events, move planning, workplace organization, and led a patient move day for a LEED Silver certified hospital. As a Vizient Consultant, she specializes in facilitating and managing Lean-Led Design engagements. Nicole’s expertise and professional skills include a profound understanding of the healthcare industry along with the effectiveness of Lean tools enabling her to help guide and influence others to think and see differently. Her attention to detail makes her an ideal project manager with the expertise required in improving workflow and documenting new standards for clients. Nicole received her Bachelor’s degree in Health Promotion/Wellness and Psychology from the University of Wisconsin – Stevens Point, Stevens Point, Wisconsin.

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