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Small touches for patients are the pride of Moffitt's new outpatient center

TAMPA — When the Moffitt Cancer Center opens its new outpatient facility Monday, guests will notice the oversized entryway and sunny two-story atrium.

Vicki Caraway hopes they notice the small things, too.

Like the heated massage chairs with plush pillows and retractable footrests for patients receiving chemotherapy, or the private elevators and exits for those undergoing surgery.

"We put thought into every detail," said Caraway, the site's administrative director.

The $88 million McKinley Outpatient Center, which broke ground in February 2013, is the latest expansion for the internationally recognized treatment and research facility. In 2011, Moffitt opened a $22 million satellite at International Plaza to accommodate patients who live near the airport or are flying to Tampa for treatment.

McKinley was designed to relieve Moffitt's busy main location, housed about a mile away at the University of South Florida. Hospital officials decided to shift some of the more popular outpatient services to the site, including the skin and breast cancer clinics.

The six-story, 207,000-square-foot facility at 10920 N McKinley Drive will offer one-stop shopping for patients. Among its features: four operating rooms, an imaging suite, research labs, space for blood draws and a Publix pharmacy.

The move mirrors an industrywide trend. Hospitals nationwide are investing in ambulatory surgery centers and standalone emergency rooms, said hospital consultant Peter Young.

"The entire shift is to outpatient care," Young said. "Today's treatment plans are not as disruptive to a patient's life as the treatment plans were 10 years ago. Many procedures no longer require an overnight stay."

It makes financial sense, too. Although reimbursement rates from insurance companies and government programs like Medicare are lower for outpatient procedures, the hospitals have fewer overhead costs.

"The margins across the board are higher," Young said.

Moffitt has seen its outpatient volumes increase faster than its inpatient volumes, Caraway said. The cancer center had about 340,000 outpatient visits last year, according to its website.

Its newest facility sits on a 30-acre site donated by Hillsborough County and the city of Tampa. The building was financed by a bond that is bankrolled by state cigarette taxes.

For the design, Moffitt enlisted Tampa-based Alfonso Architects.

"Our goal was to make it warm and inviting," project manager Tom Belcher said, noting that waiting rooms were built in rooms with floor-to-ceiling windows.

The hospital also sought input from a retired U.S. Army officer named Paul Lombardi.

Lombardi, 54, was undergoing treatment for an aggressive form of leukemia at Moffitt in 2012 when he connected with the hospital's Patient and Family Advisory Council. He was later tapped to represent patients on the construction project.

Lombardi had high praise for Moffitt. But he had plenty of input to give.

"I had spent hundreds of hours at the hospital," he said. "I had a vivid recollection of what worked and what didn't, and thoughts on things that could be improved."

Among his contributions: making sure the bathrooms had hands-free faucets and paper towel dispensers, as well as hooks for the patients' belongings. Cancer patients undergoing treatment are particularly susceptible to infections, he said from experience.

He helped select the heated chemotherapy chairs, too.

Staff recommendations were given equal weight. The nurses, for example, wanted to make sure each of the private chemotherapy stations was visible from the central nurses station.

"Sometimes patients will have a reaction to the drugs," said Amy Bucciarelli, the infusion center's clinical operations manager. "We wanted to have a sight line to the patients."

The final product evokes a trendy spa or boutique hotel. Soothing earth tones and nature motifs dominate. The sun-drenched main entrance has a wood ceiling. The walls of the breast cancer center are a soft lilac color that pops beside chic white accent pieces.

There are high-tech touches, too. Automated kiosks on each floor will allow patients to check themselves in for services. They won't have to listen for their names to be called in the waiting room. Instead, a pager will vibrate when the doctor is ready to see them.

Lombardi knows the patients who stream through the doors beginning Monday will have a difficult road ahead. But he hopes the new facility will make their journeys a little more comfortable.

"All of those little things make a difference," he said.

Contact Kathleen McGrory at kmcgrory@tampabay.com or (727) 893-8330. Follow @kmcgrory.

Small touches for patients are the pride of Moffitt's new outpatient center 11/05/15 [Last modified: Friday, November 6, 2015 8:50pm]
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