Technology, old-fashioned touch create new model of health care

From sickness center to healing center

Would your facility be mistaken for a resort? Given the unassuming — and often unappealing — design of most traditional hospitals, it’s not likely. But at Celebration Health, a 315,000 square foot health care center located just south of Orlando, FL, travelers often are attracted by the 1930s Mediterranean style architecture, complete with octagonal tower, says Des D. Cummings Jr., Phd, CEO of the development division of Florida Hospital.

"They think we’re a resort. So they ask about rates or try to check in," he says.

The confusion is understandable. From the approach over the causeway to the light-filled atrium, the 60-bed facility looks like anything but a hospital.

For example, patients and visitors enter the campus via a causeway lined with palm trees. The 65-acre campus, carpeted with Kentucky blue grass, is surrounded by a lake. "The environment outside sets the tone for the healing that takes place inside," Cummings says.

In the building, the hotel-like lobby is also bathed in light, he adds. A sunlit atrium with flowers and greenery replaces the fluorescent lights and mazes of corridors typically found in hospitals.

Applying the front-stage concept’

The resort illusion continues because designers used what is called a "front-stage concept."

"You won’t see any patients being wheeled on gurneys because we transport them through the back corridors. It not only gives them privacy, but it allows those who come for wellness programs or other services to have a soothing experience," he says.

For example, in addition to traditional primary care and specialist services, Celebration Health boasts such amenities as a world-class vegetarian restaurant and fitness center with a day spa featuring massage therapy, herbal wraps, and facials. (See related article on these special services, p. 128.)

"Celebration was built on the belief that the hospital of the future should be a facility for the whole person for his or her whole life — not just during sickness or surgery," Cummings says.

By providing a healing center for all phases of life, rather than a hospital for episodic times of illness, Florida Hospital, a 1,452-bed system on six-campuses, hopes Celebration Health will serve as a prototype for the future of health care.

"Our number one purpose is to help people see they are their own primary care givers. By the way they live their life, they are primary determiner of their health," Cummings says. (See list of principles on which this health care system was founded, p. 127.)

To this end, Celebration includes, but moves beyond, the traditional inpatient and outpatient services of the healthcare setting. In addition to the physician office building that houses more than 70 primary care doctors and specialists, the facility includes a "Lifestyle Management Center" that empowers positive changes by addressing emotional and spiritual needs, rather than just physical ones.

"If we’re going to make Americans truly health-oriented, we need to change their views of the hospital from a sickness center to a healing center," Cummings says.

Technology enhances patient care

But Celebration isn’t just an intangible warm and fuzzy concept. It’s one of the most technologically advanced facilities in the world, says Cummings. More than 25 companies such as General Electric, IBM, Pfizer, Sprint, Hewlett-Packard, Johnson and Johnson, and GlaxoWellcome have formed strategic partnerships with Celebration.

"We knew that if we were going to launch the health culture of the 21st century, we couldn’t do it by ourselves," Cummings explains. "So to create a model organization, we included partners who share the vision."

Crucial to the concept is that such state-of- the-art technology exists to "provide modern medicine with an old fashioned touch," says Cummings. "The basis of healing is the personal relationship between the patient and the caregiver. Technology should never intrude into that relationship," he says.

For example, computers are located right outside the patient rooms and not by the bedside. "You don’t want the technology between the caregiver and the patient," he explains. "Neither do you want it to detract from the healing environment." By configuring inpatient areas to the "universal room" concept, technology can be added or removed according to the patient’s needs, he adds. "Every room is certified for intensive care, med-surg, and rehab. If needed, the equipment slides out easily from behind a panel of armoires. That way, the room is transformed into the appropriate level of care and the patient never has to leave," he says.

Even in technology-intensive areas like the radiology department, the harshness of technology can be minimized. "Instead of looking up at the usual fluorescent lights and ceiling tiles, we have created healing pictures of illuminated nature photographs: lakes, trees, oceans," Cummings says.

And during an MRI, patients can watch a movie through a viewer installed inside the equipment. For children, this treat can not only reduce the trauma and pain of the procedure but also the cost. "Instead of having to be poked with an IV and sedated, many children are able to undergo the procedure without it," he says.

Such a "soft technology" approach should exist to "keep documents and information, but people keep the relationship," he adds.

For example, to enhance the speed and accuracy of pharmaceutical services, physicians transmit prescriptions electronically. "This also frees up more time for pharmacists to have consultations with patients," Cummings says.

The same goes for the digitized technology at the imaging center. "In traditional settings, the radiology technician takes the images and then goes away for about 10 minutes to develop the film," Cummings explains. "In our setting, he or she can stay right beside the patient because the image takes about 30 seconds to appear on the screen."

In addition to increasing caregiver time with the patient, this instant imaging means an increase in quality. "There are fewer retakes; the tech can change the shadings immediately if needed. He or she can also print out a copy for the patient," he says.

Systems expedite registration, wait times

The facility’s technology is evident the moment one walks through the front door — and even before. For example, a centralized scheduling system for all six Florida Hospital campuses allows patients to make appointments for physicians and procedures with just one phone call.

Patients who aren’t pre-registered — about 30% — have to supply information only once, thanks to the paperless medical record system.

The majority, who are pre-registered, go directly to individual registration areas where attendants greet and provide them with pagers if the visit requires a wait, Cummings says.

"They are free to move around building until the appointment," he says. "With the pager, they can go check their children into the play area, visit the library, or the restaurant." (Child care costs about $2 per hour.)

They may also use computer hookups or phones to make a conference call or work on their laptops. For those who want to learn more about their health concerns or those of their loved one, there are computer stations with touch-screen monitors in the lobby and other areas throughout the facility. "They can research health information, take health surveys, access Web sites," Cummings says.

For example, Health Compass is an Internet-based service that establishes a single place where patients can maintain, receive, and distribute personal health information about themselves and their families in an easy-to-use secure system.

Yet, many patients still have to be encouraged to take advantage of these features. "They are so conditioned to waiting, so accustomed to thinking of the doctor’s time as being sacred that they have a difficult time imagining there is another way to do this," Cummings says.


Celebration Health, 400 Celebration Place, Celebration, FL 34747. Telephone: (407) 764-4000. Web site: