Category Archives: Insights

Shaping Today’s Laboratories for the Future

Whether testing patient specimens or developing life-saving medical advancements, laboratories play vital roles in healthcare systems. Healthcare providers depend on laboratories to deliver the best possible patient care. Patients depend on laboratories to provide doctors with the proper information for diagnosis and treatment.

It is important that the design of these complex facilities best serves these functions, allowing for maximum utility of the space. Laboratory design varies immensely from project to project, but one aspect is universal: the design must serve today’s needs and adapt to changing demands over time.

Perspectus Architecture delivers expert programming, planning, and project implementation for clinical, research, and educational lab clients. Utilizing cutting-edge design and leveraging our technical capabilities, we understand the relevant issues facing labs today. Our specialized knowledge of common trends in automation, equipment, staff productivity, and workflow helps us address each lab’s unique challenges and provide efficient, sustainable environments that provide value over time.

Clinical Labs

Clinical lab processes prioritize output and efficiency in delivering information to healthcare providers. Clinical lab design emphasizes creating an environment that facilitates the maximum performance of each lab’s unique operating procedures and processes.

Designing for process and flexibility

Leading trends in the design of clinical labs focus on increased automation and lean workflows. It is vital that labs can evolve with implementing continuous improvements in their processes.

Cleveland Clinic Robert J. Tomsich Pathology & Laboratory Medicine Institute (PLMI)

We design flexible spaces to accommodate for future growth, processes, and technological advancements. Perspectus took this long view when designing the Cleveland Clinic’s Robert J. Tomsich Pathology & Laboratory Medicine Institute (PLMI), completed in 2011. Now years later, the building is accommodating proposed renovations as it was designed to do – with flexibility in responding to lean workflow improvements and an increase in testing volume.

Cleveland Clinic Robert J. Tomsich Pathology & Laboratory Medicine Institute (PLMI)

Designing a space that allows for expansion of automation to process and analyze rising numbers of patient specimens increases efficiency, minimizes mistakes, and reduces repetitive manual work.

“A big trend in all the clinical labs is automation. It is a robotic system where you send the sample through and multiple tests can be done on it. The results are shown via computer; it’s not just individual technicians running the tests,” says Vlad Novakovic, Principal and Laboratory Studio Lead at Perspectus Architecture, “It’s less hands, all automated.”

Another key focus in lab design is implementing lean principles and practices. One example of this is designing labs to minimize steps and eliminate waste so that the workflow is as efficient as possible.

Waste is defined as anything not adding value to a process. For example, if a workspace requires a technician to take an extra step when they only need to turn and grab something, our design process to eliminate those extra steps that are a source of “waste.”

Primary Clinical Laboratory for Health Network Laboratories – Lehigh Valley Health Network

This was particularly important when Perspectus was designing a new primary clinical laboratory for Health Network Laboratories in Allentown, PA. Tasked with converting an old call center into a clinical laboratory, we spent time meeting with the users to thoroughly understand their workflow processes. This informed the design of the new space that is optimized for their workflows and the elimination of wasted steps. For instance, the departments with the highest volumes are positioned closest to incoming specimens. A robot moving on a carefully planned path distributes specimens efficiently without interrupting lab technicians.

Research Labs

While clinical labs are directly tied to current patients, research labs are linked to cures and medical advancements for future patients. Through thoughtful, rigorous design, Perspectus Architecture is creating spaces where doctors and researchers can investigate new treatments and cures for diseases.

Designing for flexibility and collaboration

Trends in research lab design are centered on creating spaces that allow for flexibility and improve collaboration among departments.

Many institutions are hindered by the inefficiency of decentralized spaces – various departments conducting similar research, but spread out across different buildings or floors.

“As they’ve grown into their facility over several years, they’re realigning departments with a common research focus.  This also means reallocating spaces to right-size their needs as research labs grow and contract,” says Bradley Fink, Project Director at Perspectus Architecture.

Perspectus is working with our lab clients to bring researchers together while also providing common spaces with shared, centralized equipment universal to their research. Designing the environments to be flexible based on the ever-changing needs of researchers is critical. For example, while the sink and walls are in a fixed position, benches or ceiling electrical outlets can be reconfigured to accommodate other research or equipment.

“There is a focus on re-organizing based on types of research, but also grouping like-minded researchers in direct proximity. Shared common space promotes more interaction, more collaboration and can accommodate more research,” says Novakovic.

This focus on creating spaces that can evolve over time and foster interaction ultimately provides more efficient operations and has the added benefits of increased collaboration. As leaders in cutting-edge laboratory design, we plan for spaces that will help our clients provide the highest quality care to patients today and tomorrow.

Perspectus-Architecture-USP800-Pharmacy-Design

Designing for USP 800: Creating A Safe Healthcare Environment

Exposure to hazardous drugs – such as those used in cancer treatment, antivirals, hormones, and some bioengineered drugs – can put healthcare workers at serious risk of adverse health effects. These can include impact or damage to DNA, cancer, infertility, birth defects, and organ damage, to name a few.

In February 2016, The United States Pharmacopeia (USP) released USP Chapter 800, “Hazardous Drugs – Handling in Healthcare Settings,” to address these risks. Chapter 800 outlines a strict set of standards on the handling of these drugs in hospitals and the design of clinical pharmacies to minimize risk. This poses several design implications for the space planning of pharmacies to achieve compliance.

Meeting the deadline

Facility modifications will need to be implemented before the USP 800 effective date in December 2019, placing pressure on hospitals to act now. Our design team is experienced in USP compliance and healthcare design and can help these facilities reach USP 800 compliance by the defined date.

Perspectus Architecture works with top healthcare institutions improving and reconfiguring their pharmacies to ensure that the environment is designed to meet requirements of USP 800.

Our first step is a site evaluation of the physical space by creating a compliance checklist or gap analysis. Then we speak with the users about their workflow and processes.

“We talk to the pharmacists and pharmacy techs that live in the space to identify where improvements can be made with their workflow and processes,” says Ray Minotas, Project Director at Perspectus Architecture. “That will then impact the overall design and layout while also making sure that all USP 800 guidelines are met.”

Key facility improvements

The new engineering and environment control/quality requirements apply to unpacking environments, preparation and compounding cleanrooms, and storage spaces.

“Previously, non-hazardous and hazardous drugs could be received and unpacked in the space. Sterile and non-sterile hazardous drugs could also be stored together in positive pressure – this is no longer allowable,” says Sal Rini, Principal at Perspectus Architecture.

Pharmacies are now required to have separate cleanrooms – one for sterile non-hazardous, and another for sterile hazardous, with an anteroom between them for access. The receiving and unpacking areas for hazardous drugs must now be under negative pressure with at least 12 air exchanges per hour to assist in the ventilation of potentially harmful gasses or residue.

One of the most challenging aspects of these upgrades can be finding the space within the existing facility to accommodate hazardous drug unpacking and storage rooms adjacent to the compounding room.

Minimizing Public Health Risks

It is important to reiterate that the design modifications expressed in USP 800 are the response to the growing concern of dangerous health risks that can result from the exposure to the over 200 hazardous drugs during receiving and handling in healthcare settings. The design of a new pharmacy will vary widely on a case-by-case basis, depending on the existing conditions of the pharmacy. Perspectus Architecture works closely with hospitals to ensure the least impact possible to their facilities and to maintain full compounding operations.