Herman Miller Healthcare & Continuum Design Team
Herman Miller Compass System
Herman Miller Healthcare
Herman Miller Compass System
Compass is a modular system of interchangeable components used to create applications for patient rooms, caregiver work areas and other clinical spaces.
Compass improves caregiver efficiency, supports new and changing technologies, improves the patient and family experience and offers surfaces and construction that have been optimized for the healthcare environment.
Herman Miller Healthcare and Continuum Design Team
Jean Snow: This project was not only chosen because of the innovative functionality and ease-of-use it brings to a hospital environment, but also because we wanted to bring attention to the important role design thinking and development can have in the health care arena.
On the functional side, the system offers many solutions to common issues that health professionals deal with on a daily basis, and contributes to making the entire process of nursing patients back to health a smoother and more efficient one. The design details of the components are also worth noting, from the curved corners that prevent liquids from seeping inside other sections, to the large degree of flexibility introduced by the modularity of all the pieces.
The project acts as a great example of how design attention in health care can not only raise the level of treatment of patients, but can also do so in an economical and more efficient manner.
Herman Miller Compass System
1. Summarize the problem you set out to solve. What was the challenge posed to you? Did it get you excited and why?
With so much of its business focused on corporate furnishings, Herman Miller was concerned as the recession dragged on from 2008 – 2009. With healthcare’s share of the U.S. economy rising at a record rate, Herman Miller new it could expand and improve its business by capitalizing on its deep knowledge base in furniture and casegoods manufacturing to explore a new direction - designing for the hospital patient experience.
The hospital patient room is fundamental to the quality of care of the patient, so we collaborated with Herman Miller to create the best experience for everyone concerned.
Our team talked with hundreds of clinicians, hospital administrators, architects, and designers to discover the most important unmet needs in how patient recovery and exam rooms are designed today.
We discovered that flexibility is critical; nothing stays the same for long in health care technology. But equally important is an improved overall experience for both patients and caregivers.
This project was very exciting for us; both because Herman Miller is a dream client, and because we were embarking on an extensive program within one of the healthiest and most interesting sectors of the economy.
2. What point of view did you bring to the challenge? Was there anything additional that you wanted to achieve with this project or bring to this project that was not part of the original brief?
The scope of the project was to create a better patient experience by redesigning the patient room. Although the patient room was where we were initially tasked to focus, after conducting some initial research, it became clear to us that there were issues we wanted to address outside the patient room. Nurses stations, hallways, maintenance and sanitation – we wanted to make sure that we understood the issues throughout the patient care system. So we took step back and looked at the problem broadly. We wanted to understand the hospital ecosystem from a system-wide level.
3. When designing this project, whose interests did you consider? (Discuss various stakeholders, audiences, retailing, manufacturing, assembly, distribution, etc., for example.)
The goal for hospitals is obvious - to help people get better. However, hospitals employ many stakeholders, and the goals of these stakeholders on a moment-by-moment basis are not always aligned. This can create an unsettling environment for the patient and impede the patient’s road to recovery. Our research focused on the patient and how to heal them, but we also focused on understanding the needs of physicians, nurses, custodial staff, patients' families, hospital administrators and architects so that we could design a system that would help them all achieve their shared goal - better patient care. By understanding the needs of all the stakeholders in the hospital care ecosystem, we were able to understand how their relationships can conflict with each other and how we could design a system to overcome these conflicts.
4. Describe the rigor that informed your design. (Research, ethnography, subject matter experts, materials exploration, technology, iteration, testing, etc., as applicable.) If this was a strictly research or strategy project, please provide more detail here.
Infection control was the single biggest challenge that informed our design. We needed to reduce or eliminate points of entry and growth for contaminants and biohazards as much as possible and to facilitate cleaning and removal of contaminants. This had to be done using appropriate materials which would be cost-effective, environmentally friendly, and resistant to aggressive cleaning agents. The solution was systemic and technical. Designed to mount directly to the wall, Compass “floats” off the floor, preventing any liquids from seeping into areas that are difficult to clean. Compass is based on the use of a proprietary material called Durawrap, which completely wraps the primary surfaces and edges of the tiles and storage modules, eliminating the seams created by the edge banding typical of most case goods. The tiles are designed to overlap in the horizontal plane allowing liquids to run down from one tile to the other and are snugly aligned to each other during the installation process.
5. What is the social value of your design? (Gladdening, educational, economic, paradigm-shifting, sustainable, labor-mindful, environmental, cultural, etc.) How does it earn its keep in the world?
In addition to the infection control features designed into the system, Compass is designed and engineered to optimize the ergonomics for both the patient and the care givers while providing a warm, and reassuring environment for all stakeholders (the patient, the professional care givers, and visitors). Compass also offers hospital administrators, planners, and designers design flexibility and significant overall cost savings during initial installation and over time. The system allows for rapid planning, installation, and modification/optimization of the patient room as well as other spaces within the hospital or clinic. In addition, the modularity of the components and the attachment system allows for reutilization of parts as the function of a space changes.
Perhaps most importantly, Compass allows for the optimization of space to maximize functionality, increase interpersonal contact, stimulate a greater sense of optimism, and reduce infection, while creating a warm and welcoming environment, all essential contributors to the healing process.
The modular design of Compass allows nurses and other clinical staff to easily make real-time changes to the patient room environment in response to changes in supply storage, patient acuity, or EMR introduction. These changes can be made with virtually no downtime and without sending anything to a landfill.
The Herman Miller Design for the Environment (DfE) team applied environmentally sensitive design standards to Compass, utilizing the McDonough Braungart Design Chemistry (MDBC) Cradle to Cradle™ Design Protocol. Compass components are manufactured using 6-percent post-consumer and 52-percent pre-consumer recycled content.
6. If you could have done one thing differently with the project, what would you have changed?
We had designed several additional Compass modules that provide a more comprehensive set of benefits to a broader range of health care providers. We would have preferred that Herman Miller launch the full line that we proposed, but Herman Miller had to select a smaller portfolio of modules with which to launch the product line so that they could be managed from a manufacturing, inventory, and marketing perspective.