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April 1, 2022

A model of cancer care with all the necessary amenities

  • Raising the voice of patients and caregivers guides the design of Heimann Cancer Center.
  • By PJ BAUSER
    Mahlum Architects


    bauser


    In southern Oregon alone, more than 2,000 new cases of cancer are diagnosed each year. To meet this challenge, Asante set out to transform cancer care with the creation of the new Heimann Cancer Center, which will soon become the most advanced cancer treatment center in the region.

    Consolidating all outpatient oncology services under one roof, the nearly 80,000 square foot Heimann Cancer Center offers medical oncology, radiation therapy, infusion therapy, imaging and laboratory services, education of patients, cancer research and access to pharmacy. The center focuses on medical excellence through a value-based treatment system where patients and families come first.

    Rendered courtesy of Mahlum Architects

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    “The Knoll” offers connections to nature for patients and caregivers.

    The design of the new facility began with Mahlum’s design team and Asante administrators connecting more directly to the specific needs of cancer patients and their caregivers by creating the Cancer Champions Group – an advisory group of patients consisting of 15-20 current patients, former patients and caregivers/family members. The thoughtful participation of these people led to several key ideas that shaped the architectural response:

    • Importance of caregiver. People do not walk the care journey alone and the environment should support and celebrate those who walk the journey with them.

    • Connection to nature. We draw strength and healing from our natural world.

    • Scales of community. Patients, caregivers and care teams form a community at different scales and in different ways throughout the treatment cycle.

    • Sensitivity to the sun. Patients undergoing infusion and radiotherapy treatments may have extreme sensitivity to sunlight.

    The facility’s comprehensive program has been designed as a full-service facility for outpatient cancer care, allowing patients to combine their infusion and radiation therapy appointments with group therapy and/or educational visits without never have to leave the building. But this encompassing model of care means patients can spend up to five hours on site between appointments. So, to take advantage of extended stays, the center offers patient amenities such as massage, yoga, nutrition, and health meeting spaces, as well as “sharing spaces” where volunteers connect patients. with wigs, scarves and other accessories that make the journey worthy. The facility also supports extended stays with the introduction of “Third Spaces” which are flexibly scheduled respite areas that promote relaxation, intermittent work and/or social connection.

    The upper-level cafe provides users with a “third space” of respite between treatments.
    Interior lobby and lower level check-in area.

    The hall and circulation spaces are widened throughout, allowing patients and carers to continuously move together, side by side. The multi-storey public hall overlooks the gardens on “the Knoll” and the outdoor gathering spaces integrated into the natural landscape, while ensuring that the therapeutic effects of these spaces can also be enjoyed by those sensitive to the sun. Therefore, the exterior glazing is coated with a UV protective film and the interior seats provide users with protection from direct sunlight while maintaining a clear view of the exterior.

    These same concepts have been extended to the infusion floors where the layout of the space allows patients to engage at different scales of the community. Individual infusion bays are rotated to provide patients with privacy and a direct view of nature while providing ample space for caregiver support. For those who desire greater social interaction and connection, flexible scheduling allows patients to use their ability to move around during treatments to form impromptu gatherings where patients and caregivers can build community around games , socializing or simply enjoying each other’s company.

    Perhaps the greatest insight from the Cancer Champions group was the importance of extending the design to clinical spaces where patients may sometimes feel most vulnerable. While state-of-the-art linear accelerators are essential for delivering precision radiation therapy treatments, the equipment and vaults can create daunting environments. The design solution was to provide a floor-to-ceiling window at the vault entrances, bringing daylight and warmth into the interior of the building and illuminating a 100-foot-long photographic wallcovering of the Oregon Coast. These components welcome patients into the space, reducing some of the tension and anxiety often associated with radiation therapy treatment. Biophilic elements and similar wooden materials permeate public and clinical spaces, bringing a calming effect everywhere.

    Elevating the voices and perspectives of patients and caregivers through the Cancer Champions Group, the Heimann Cancer Center at Asante provides a warm, welcoming, patient-centered environment befitting excellence in care. By targeting the needs of those most affected by the work, we are building healthier and more sustainable communities.



    As the leader of Mahlum’s healthcare studio with 17 years of architectural experience, PJ Bauser brings a knowledge of creating healthy environments and a passion for using design to serve vulnerable populations.

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