May 8, 2019
As more and more sick people stream into emergency rooms across the country, hospitals are realizing that adding more private exam rooms isn’t the best use of their limited space. Many hospitals are redesigning their ERs with clusters of cubicles, or “pods.”
Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago, for example, recently added 16 pods to its ER. Designed by HKS, each pod (pictured above) is roughly half the size of a traditional ER exam room and contains a reclining chair instead of a bed.
Patients with less-acute problems can be tended to in the chairs, freeing up beds for patients with more serious issues. Pods, with their reclining chairs, have a smaller footprint that is more vertical than horizontal, according to Dr. Michael Schmidt, assistant professor of emergency medicine at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine. Experts estimate that roughly 30% of hospitals across the nation have gone “vertical” with their ERs.
“The model works for patients who are ambulatory and don’t need all the staff and equipment that would make it necessary for them to stay in a traditional [ER] bay,” Schmidt says.
Northwestern Memorial’s pods were inspired by first-class luxury airline spaces. They’re enclosed by three walls and a curtained opening, and provide enough space for a doctor and nurse to examine and treat the patient and an additional chair for a family member or friend. There’s also room for the recliner to extend into stretcher position, if necessary.
The pods feature curved rear walls that improve privacy, and make it easier for doctors to talk to their patients without raising their voice above the din of the ER. Additionally, they offer adjustable lighting, outlets for patients to plug in computers and phones, and storage bins for personal items.
With its new pods, Northwestern Memorial has been able to more than double the ER’s capacity, and reduce waiting times and crowding as well.
For questions, comments or concerns, please contact Jennifer Duell Popovec