This Physical-Healthcare Facility Pioneers Virtual Care

Mercy’s Virtual Care Center offers a dynamic new alternative to health care, this time without beds.

Images Courtesy Sam Fentress

Virtual patient care, or “telemedicine,” has been a healthcare delivery option for decades now. In 1989, the Medphone Corporation developed the MDphone, a portable electronic cardiac treatment system for patients at risk of suffering a heart attack at home. When activated, the system dialed the associated hospital’s cardiac care unit. The user placed electrode pads on the patient, while healthcare professionals operated the defibrillator. This product brought patient care to the home, circumventing the potentially fatal risks associated with traveling to the hospital.

Despite developments in mobile communication technology in telemedicine, so far, few facilities have adapted or been developed to incorporate it. In collaboration with Mercy, Forum Studio has designed the Mercy Virtual Care Center, the first state-of-the-art facility dedicated to the development and practice of telemedicine.

Located in Chesterfield, MO, the 4-story, 125,000 square-foot center contains no beds. Rather, it features state-of-the-art technologies that allow medical professionals to deliver quality care to patients anywhere in the world. It houses all of Mercy’s 75+ telemedicine programs, particularly SafeWatch eICU, which allows doctors and nurses to monitor ICU patients at other hospitals around the clock. Using high-definition cameras and complex monitoring technology, physicians and nurses can catch details in patients as small as pupil dilation—even miles away. These programs bring efficient specialized care to areas with limited access—particularly to rural neighborhoods.

The building is not just a  medical center, however; it also includes an innovation “think tank,” conference center, and sales showroom. The second floor, in addition to boasting many of the telemedicine technologies, features a 360-degree presentation theater used to showcase Mercy’s virtual mission to potential partners. Meeting spaces contain floor-to-ceiling whiteboards and giant monitors, promoting collaborative efforts to develop new, more effective means of patient care. This dedication to collaboration is embodied on the center’s top floor, which operates as a workshop space (featuring a 35’ x 7’ video wall).

Even with its multitude of functions, the Mercy Virtual Care Center does not abandon aesthetics. Utilizing floor-to-ceiling glass windows and several outdoor terraces, the design of the center focuses on transparency and accessibility: qualities Mercy also strives for in its relationships with  its communities. Connecting to and caring for nature was also close to the heart of the design. The trees surrounding the center were intricately preserved throughout the design process. Challenging the aesthetics and functions of conventional medical facilities, the Mercy Virtual Care Center offers dynamic possibilities for healthcare facilities.

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