The Hospital of the Future— Here & Now

A decade in the making, the new Stanford Hospital is ready to welcome patients and redefine the hospital experience. Invited to take a behind-the-scenes tour, Gentry sits down with Stanford Health Care CEO David Entwistle to discuss the dazzling new space.

  • Category
    Health, People
  • Written by
    Robin Hindery
  • Portrait by
    Margot Hartford

A hospital is perhaps the one place we want equipped with the very best in technology, staff, and amenities—but we hope we never use any of them.

In the event we do, it’s good to be a Bay Area resident. Stanford Hospital has always aced the staffing category, providing world-class care that draws patients from around the globe for the most advanced, cutting-edge treatment.

But for many years now, the facilities housing that care have left something to be desired—perfectly adequate but nothing extraordinary.

That’s all about to change.

This fall, the new Stanford Hospital will open in its entirety, following a decade-long planning and construction process aimed at accommodating new medical technology, increasing capacity, and bringing Stanford’s hospital facilities up to California’s stringent seismic safety standards. The seven-story, 824,000-square-foot space will feature 368 new and entirely private patient rooms (bringing the hospital campus total to 600), and a new Level 1 Trauma Center and Emergency Department that is more than double the size of the current ED.

In addition to three acres of surgical floor space, the new square footage also features non-medical amenities aimed at boosting morale, lowering stress, and keeping patients, visitors, and staff connected to nature. Those include five gardens with walking trails and a light-filled interfaith chapel.

But this is Silicon Valley, after all, so let’s not forget about the tech features. In fact, that’s what got David Entwistle, president and CEO of Stanford Health Care, particularly animated during a recent interview in one of the gleaming new boardrooms. “It’s the technology that will really differentiate the kind of care we can provide,” said Entwistle, who came to Stanford in mid-2016 after nine years as CEO of the University of Utah Hospitals and Clinics.

David Entwistle

The new hospital will leverage smartphone technology through Stanford’s MyHealth app, which will act as a sort of digital companion for patients throughout their stay. That includes faster check-in and admitting, automated appointment reminders, point-to-point directions within the facility, and extensive health education content specific to a patient’s medical profile. Within patient rooms, a 55-inch TV, iPad, and a pillow remote will offer easy access to on-demand entertainment, white noise, music, and patient education information.

For staff, the secure messaging platform Voalte will allow multi-prong care teams to communicate rapidly and securely about each patient’s personal health information. The iPhone-based system is already in use, processing more than 30,000 text messages and 6,000 calls daily between physicians, nurses, and ancillary staff.

“It’s a very high bar to say we’re the most technologically advanced hospital in the world, so when I read that in one of our press release drafts, I wanted to make sure it was true,” Entwistle recalls. “I spent about four hours having them run me through all the new features, and I was convinced. Thanks to the size of our network and the connectivity of all our devices, we’re able to provide a real-time, engaged experience for patients. They can look up doctors’ notes from their bed, or use the screen for a tele-health consult.”

“We already knew we had the best care,” Entwistle continues. “Now we have a facility to match that.”

The new Stanford Hospital is part of a larger Stanford University Medical Center Renewal Project that includes the expansion of Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital Stanford, the renovation of Hoover Pavilion, the Welch Road Utility Project, and the replacement of School of Medicine facilities.

The existing hospital will remain open, connected to the new space by a pedestrian bridge, a street-level pedestrian path, and an underground tunnel (in part for the robots—yes, robots!). Renovation of portions of the existing hospital will begin in the coming year to create one cohesive campus with the same modern amenities and all private rooms.

By the time of Gentry’s visit to the new hospital in August, the largest art installations had recently been unveiled, construction workers were busy adding handrails and other finishing touches, and hospital staff were conducting “dress rehearsals” so that by the time patients arrived in the new space, the transition would feel seamless. “What’s neat is to be able to see through the eyes of the individuals you’re bringing into the building—to see their engagement, their excitement,” said Entwistle, whose tenure began after construction was already well underway. “This will be a milestone for the university and for the community for quite a long time.”

He may not have had a hand in the initial planning, but Entwistle brings a rather unique perspective to his CEO role and decisions over the past four years, having experienced an extended and very unexpected hospital stay following a catastrophic bike accident while living and working in Utah. The crash occurred near the end of a triathlon, when Entwistle was thrown onto the road at high speed after flipping over his handlebars. He suffered traumatic brain injuries and spent a week in the ICU, followed by three more weeks in rehab.

“Spending four weeks in the hospital, the experience a patient has from the other side of the bedrails, it’s very different than what you might think,” he explains. “That interaction with your caregiver—how does the doctor treat you, what is the role of the nurse in the middle of the night when you’re anxious about something—you start to see what’s important from a patient standpoint. I will say that changed the way I lead; I’m always thinking, what will that look like from a patient’s perspective?”

The hospital’s planners took that patient viewpoint into account from all angles, not just those focused on medical care and physical comfort; the aesthetic experience of the new hospital received a lot of attention as well. Stanford Health Care has a dedicated art commission, comprised of 14 volunteers and led by board member Linda Meier.

The group commissioned seven new pieces of art for the facility, including a 30-foot metal structure that sits at the hospital entrance. “Buckyball” features three nested spheres that will be illuminated at night by LED lights in a never-repeating sequence of colors and patterns. Its creator, Leo Villareal, is best known in the Bay Area for creating the spectacular Bay Lights installation in 2013 that transformed the Bay Bridge and the San Francisco skyline.

“The integration of art, technology, and how the patients come in and have an environment that accommodates their needs—we’ve invested in something that raises the bar,” Entwistle says proudly. “It really is unique.”

Just four years after arriving in Silicon Valley, however, Entwistle has clearly adopted the local mindset of pushing for ever-higher goals. It’s an outlook that should serve Stanford Health Care—and its patients—well in the coming years. “I have a healthy dissatisfaction with the status quo,” the CEO explains. “I tend to get more anxious when we do well. There’s always a chance to improve, to do better.”

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