Stanford Medicine Newsletter Updates For the Local Community


Transforming hospital design

Mock-ups help refine plans before construction begins

More than 500 staff, physicians and family members have toured the mock-ups at Lucile Packard Children's Hospital, which includes the Neuro Hybrid operating room. Their feedback helped hospital planners improve the design for the hospital expansion.


They’re the crash-test dummies of modern medicine: two sets of full-scale hospital rooms, including operating rooms, recovery rooms and patient rooms, built to the architectural specifications of the new Stanford Hospital and expansion of Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital. They include every fixture—from sinks, overhead booms, and monitors to electrical outlets, oxygen and gas hookups, light switches, and hand sanitizer dispensers.

The rooms are facility mock-ups, built to test the new designs and workflow well before construction begins. Though much of the equipment is real, there is also a lot of “mock” equipment: booms made from PVC pipe, a surgical biplane crafted from foam board and duct tape, and string standing in for electrical wires.

“They didn’t send the space shuttle off without building models, testing and modifying,” said Michael Edwards, MD, chief of pediatric neurosurgery at Packard Children’s. “We may not be as complex as the space shuttle, but the process is still important to ensuring safety and effectiveness.”

Integrating feedback

Physicians, nurses and other health care personnel have toured the rooms to experience the layouts and provide feedback. “You can look at pictures, but it’s not until you see something modeled that you understand the space,” said Grace Hsu, senior project manager for design and construction at Stanford Hospital.

At Packard Children’s, multidisciplinary teams, including parents, visited the mock-up rooms together to run realistic, scripted scenarios. “There was not one room in which we didn’t make significant changes,” said Jennifer Romer, RN, lead senior project manager for Packard Children’s. “By modifying the design now, before building, we saved millions of dollars.”

Collaboration and innovation

The patients’ input was also critical. “From the patient focus groups that I helped facilitate, more than 100 of their suggestions were included,” said Nancy Lee, RN, vice president of patient care services and chief nursing officer at Stanford Hospital.

Building mock-ups also helps the construction teams, who analyze how the headwalls come together and how to position pipes, electrical wiring and data infrastructure. “The contractors can actually test how they’re going to build the rooms when the time comes,” said Hsu.

One of the most advanced aspects of the new design reflects the increasing use of imaging guidance and diagnostics during surgery. The new “hybrid” set-ups will include MRI scanner rooms directly connected to the surgical rooms to contain patients in a sterile zone, reduce risk and infection, and improve outcomes and efficiency.

Breakthrough thinking

But during testing, the hybrid mock-ups not only allowed refinements to the existing design but also opened collaborations with vendors to pioneer innovative medical equipment. For instance, the teams needed a bed that would fit both the angiogram and MRI scanner so that patients would not have to be moved from table to table. But between the two scanners—made by two different manufacturers—no such table existed.

“The breakthrough comes when you’re thinking of something that hasn’t been done yet,” said Edwards. “You tell the vendor what you want to do, and they say, ‘We don’t do that yet.’ But then they realize that the trend is starting here, and that other companies will need the same thing in the future. So they build it.”

In other words, the mock-ups had a positive effect not only on the design of Stanford Medical Center but also on the future design of hospitals everywhere.

“The process of involving everyone throughout this whole experience has been very valuable,” said Ann Weinacker, MD, Stanford Hospital’s chief of staff. “The staff has appreciated being asked for suggestions. We know that the rooms planned are really going to be conducive to delivering the best care.”

For more information and updates on the Medical Center Renewal Project, visit the project’s website,

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