Tomorrow's hospital today
Advanced technology and a design that puts well-being first come together in the new Stanford Hospital
The future is not what it used to be,” George Tingwald, MD, was fond of saying while the new Stanford Hospital was under construction.
“You future-proof a building by trying to understand how to create the most flexible framework to allow for change, even though you may not know what that change is,” explained Tingwald, Stanford’s administrative director of medical planning as well as an architect and a surgeon.
The hospital, which opened its doors Nov. 17, was a decadelong, $2 billion project sparked by seismic safety requirements and a ballooning San Francisco Bay Area population. It was constructed to withstand an 8.0-magnitude earthquake and can triple its patient capacity in a disaster.
“We truly are Palo Alto’s community hospital,” said David Entwistle, president and CEO of Stanford Health Care. “I’m deeply grateful to everyone who believed in the vision for this facility and worked so hard over the past decade to make it a reality.”
The hospital relies on the most advanced technology to ease patients’ stay — controls at every bedside adjust lighting, room temperature, window shades and entertainment — and to provide the best care. Heart-rate monitors, oxygen saturation monitors, infusion pumps and automated prescription-filling machines are connected to patients’ electronic health records, updating them in real time.
The hospital is also a working laboratory for all this technology: In each room, two units equipped with artificial intelligence-enabled cameras study how monitoring can improve quality and patient safety.
“It’s a beautiful, serene setting for healing that is also an advanced incubator where we can cultivate our vision of precision health — predicting and preventing disease in the healthy and precisely diagnosing and curing disease in the ill,” said Lloyd Minor, MD, dean of the Stanford University School of Medicine.
“For patients and families, as well as medical students, trainees and scientists, the new Stanford Hospital promises to raise the bar for all we do in care, research and education.”
The state-of-the-art design extends to the building’s engineering: The hospital stands on base isolators — a structural foundation decoupled from the building it supports — which allow the structure above to remain steadier during an earthquake. It has its own sewer tank, water tank and generators.
Artwork and nature also play a starring role: There are 4 acres of gardens, views from every patient room, wall-to-wall windows in common areas and dramatic artwork. The emphasis on art and nature reflects the growing recognition that they contribute to healing and well-being.
“From the patient rooms, the views are spectacular,” said Michael Moore, a member of the hospital’s Patient and Family Advisory Council. “You’ve got the mountains to the west, the skyline of Palo Alto to the east and campus — one of the greatest views of Hoover Tower. It’s absolutely beautiful. And then at night, when the sun goes down, in that pure light, it’s absolutely breathtaking.”
The 368 patient rooms are in the top four levels of the hospital, each with a single bed and an expansive window as well as a bathroom and a daybed for visitors.
The third floor is devoted to cultivating wellness, with lounges for patients and their families, a dining area, a meditation and chapel space, and access to the outdoor gardens. It also has a health library and caregiver resource center. The second floor houses operating rooms.
On the ground floor, the new emergency department is 2½ times the size of the previous one, with 66 large, private bays — each with the equipment necessary to accommodate at least one extra patient.
It also has four full, private triage rooms equipped with exam lights, oxygen and full-size gurneys so patients can be treated in those spaces. New features include a dental emergency room and 55-inch, two-way video monitors near the foot of every patient’s bed for services that include remote consultation and translation for the hospital’s many non-English-speaking patients.
Of course, the changes aren’t all physical. When the new hospital opened, the focus for Alpa Vyas, vice president of patient experience for Stanford Health Care, was not so much on the building as on the people within it. Her goal was to build a knowledgeable network of people to support patients and their families, not only while they’re in the hospital, but also long after they leave it. Patient navigation team members are available to explain resources that assist family or friends in supporting the patient’s care, even from a distance.
“It’s really the people within the building who bring it to life,” Vyas said. “The experience is not only the physical facility and the environment; it’s also the culture and service.”
The original hospital next door now houses the pediatric emergency department, the inpatient psychiatry unit and several other patient units; a section is being renovated to become a cancer hospital. The two buildings, which together hold 600 beds, are joined by a second-story walkway.