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August 5, 2002

The new Crawford Long: A model in bedside manner

By Michael Terrazas

Throughout Crawford Long’s new hospital and medical office tower, the corridor lights are gentle. Long fluorescent bulbs are shielded inside wide, A-shaped fixtures that diffuse the light and spread it thorougly yet softly around the hallways.

The effect, when one is walking upright, is easy to miss. But imagine being wheeled around on a gurney, lying face-up and staring at the ceiling, anxious thoughts of an imminent and possibly quite invasive medical procedure flying around one’s head. At a time like that, small comforts go a long way.

That is the basic premise behind Crawford Long’s $270 million redevelopment project, and it is evident in every square inch of the new facility. Located between Peachtree and West Peachtree streets in the heart of Midtown, the 20-story, 365,000-square-foot structure opened July 29, and already patients around Atlanta are feeling better in a variety of ways.

Let’s face it: No one likes to go the hospital. But no doubt that anxiety is fueled in large part by stock images: coldly sterile spaces tiled in unforgiving linoleum, outfitted with uncomfortable furniture and boasting all the ambience of, well, a medical lab.

Crawford Long’s new facility shatters that stereotype. From the moment one has one’s car valet-parked and enters the Nita & J. Mack Conservatory, a yawning two-story atrium filled with olive trees and dazzling sunlight, it is pleasantly apparent that this is not a typical hospital.

“The Emory-Crawford Long redevelopment project is the first step toward setting a new standard of health care in Atlanta,” said John Henry, CEO of Emory Hospitals and Wesley Woods. “You don’t realize the magnitude or the scope of the project until you step foot inside.”

Those inside can already feel the difference. “We have the best place in the world now,” said Peggy Duke, chief of anesthesiology.

Duke was one of many Crawford Long doctors who consulted with the design team as it studied the best hospitals around the country and the world. One of the main concepts that arose was the goal of allowing as much natural light as possible into patient care areas.

For example, through a pair of double-doors from Duke’s second-floor pre-operative unit is a long, wide hallway flanked on one side by the hospital’s surgical suites. On the other side are long, tall windows, allowing sunlight to flood in as hospital surgeons perform their delicate work. The effect is palpable; bright sunlight is most assuredly not what springs to mind when one imagines invasive surgery.

Ergonomics is the rule throughout the building, as stylish, plush, art deco-inspired furniture lines the many waiting rooms scattered around units and floors. In the waiting areas on both floors and at both ends of the conservatory, through which tantalizing aromas waft from the first-floor dining services, friends and families of patients are furnished with beepers that inform them when doctors have news. There are public workrooms complete with Internet hookups for laptop computers, private consultation rooms—including several in the emergency department (ED)—and even a pantry where guests can prepare their own food.

Speaking of the ED, fortunate is the patient brought in for emergency care at this facility. Aside from state-of-the-art technology both clinical and administrative—including huge computer screens the size of ping-pong tables that allow ED staff to track both patients and doctors—the new, 24,000-square-foot ED is more than three times the size of Crawford Long’s previous department.

The ED is designed around three modalities of care—acute care, express and clinical decision units—each with its own nursing station. On a Thursday afternoon in mid-August, much of the ED (thankfully) is empty, but even on the busiest of nights, patients will be treated quickly; average wait time is roughly 30–45 minutes, according to Linda Willis, a licensed practical nurse and temporary ED employee.

“When you have a state-of-the-art facility like this,” Willis said, “it just changes people’s outlook. Everything moves so much smoother. I love it.”

One aspect of the facility is that related services are logically placed in physical proximity to each other. Hence, located on the same floor as the ED is the radiology department, featuring a totally digital environment that allows physicians to instantly view X-rays and scans without having to wait for film. They can in turn transmit the digital images anywhere they wish.

Upstairs on the third floor, the building’s women’s services unit will allow Crawford Long to become a choice destination for expectant and delivering mothers. The labor and delivery suite features 11 delivery rooms and four triage rooms; the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) and special care nursery can accommodate 24 infants; and the building’s only inpatient rooms can comfortably house 36 new mothers in individual spaces that more resemble plush hotel suites than hospital rooms, with rich wood shelving and bathrooms with real tile floors.

“The old NICU was crowded, and these bright [natural] lights make all the difference,” said Angela Wilson, who gave birth to triplets Trinity, Eddie and Edward on July 15. The babies, who were born three months premature, likely will remain in the NICU until October. “I come every day and feel very at home,” Wilson said.

Another floor up is Crawford Long’s renowned Carlyle Fraser Heart Center, which houses the cardiac catheterization suite, the cardiac observation center, the noninvasive procedural area and the arrhythmia and heart failure therapy clinics—again, all located next to each other, which was not the case with the center’s previous accommodations.

“This is much more efficient,” said Laura Jacobson, director of cardiology services.”
Things need to be efficient, since the Fraser Heart Center houses the busiest positron emission topography (PET) scanning lab in the country, if not the world. In the past
10 years, the center has performed more than 10,000 PET scans (averaging nine a day), more than any other hospital in the United States.

The 16 floors above cardiology serve as office and clinical space for Emory doctors as well as others. The entire concept is one of a “vertical medical mall,” where most patients’ needs can be served simply by hopping on an elevator.

The new facility has been open only for a few weeks, and several areas and labs are not yet finished. For example, a high-tech medical training room/lecture hall on the fourth floor, scheduled to open in October, will allow doctors to view surgeries live as they are performed and even communicate with the doctors performing the procedure. Indeed, the digital feed can be transmitted anywhere in the world.

In all, Crawford Long’s redevelopment project is one that combines the latest in technological advance with the best in patient service, from the excellence of its doctors and nurses, to the convenience of its location in the heart of Atlanta, to the human touches that simply make the facility a pleasant place to be.

“The design reflects our staff,” said Crawford Long COO Albert Blackwelder. “They know better than ayone does what it takes to make a hospital more efficient, not only for the people who work here, but most importantly, for our patients and visitors.”