Innovation by Design

What can healthcare designers learn from Apple Stores?

05.11.2016 by Robert Nieminen

In her continuing education studies, my wife is currently enrolled in a course about “innovation architecture,” which piqued my interest. What does innovative architecture have to do with her degree in Educational Studies, I wondered?

As it turns out, “innovation architecture” has less to do with physical infrastructure than “intra-structure”—that is, the internal culture, systems, or workings of an organization that foster an environment where creativity and innovation are encouraged. And yet, the question still hung in the air: doesn’t the physical environment matter?

Perhaps not to the authors of the course textbook, but we know better, don’t we? Architecture and design do have an impact on an organization’s ability to accomplish its goals, especially when those involve thinking outside the box.

Case in point: a recent Fast Company article explored the question of what healthcare designers can learn from the Apple Store. Their answer was the new University of Minnesota Health Clinics and Surgery Center by Cannon Design that completely revamps the patient experience—which earned the project a spot as a finalist in the 2015 Innovation by Design Awards.

According to Cannon Design, the five-story, 342,000-sq.-ft. outpatient center is uniquely designed with innovative ideas pulled from consumer industries including retail, air travel, and corporate workplace design to orchestrate a patient experience that promotes personalization, convenience, and the elimination of touchpoints. Arriving patients are greeted by a valet and once inside are escorted by concierge staff positioned at the entry. The Discovery Bar, a sculptural desk on the ground floor, provides access to educational materials and clinical trials. Technologically-advanced check-in solutions eliminate the need for a formal check-in process, and lounges are furnished with an array of different seating options that allow patients and visitors to choose their preferred setting instead of being assigned to a small waiting area.

This is but one example of how design informs the creation of innovative physical spaces that challenge the status quo and transform the ordinary into the extraordinary.