Better patient care and a flexible lifestyle for the owners of the CAPS Clinic
At some stage in their career, many surgeons and healthcare professionals feel the urge to create an operating environment that is uniquely their own. A place where everything they need to provide their desired level of patient care has been meticulously planned and designed to work exactly in the same way that they do. In essence a practice that resonates with their personality and where patients and staff can identify with their vision for the provision of care.
Dr Alastair Taylor and his wife Cheryl, have created such a place in the new CAPS (Cosmetic and Plastic Surgery) Clinic in Canberra. Located in Canberra's medical precinct, the CAPS Clinic consists of over 1400m2 of superbly designed specialist consulting rooms, surgeries and private hospital facilities over two floors, allowing resident specialists to provide comprehensive services and recovery care to cosmetic and plastic surgery patients.
After 13 years of successfully operating from part of the premises that would eventually become the CAPS Clinic, Alastair and Cheryl decided that the time had come to make their mark and build a clinic that would be uniquely their own. The decision to build new facilities from scratch was taken after detailed consideration and extensive consultation with patients and staff.
Feedback from patients and staff revealed generally poor levels of satisfaction with the quality of care provided to cosmetic surgery patients in private hospitals. Nursing staff were doing their best, but typically operating in ratios of 4 nurses for 25 patients. Providing first class care at that staffing level is simply unsustainable in the medium to long term. In addition, some cosmetic surgery patients felt that they were being subtly discriminated against, with their surgeries and subsequent recovery being seen as “self-inflicted” by overworked nursing staff.
Alastair and Cheryl knew instinctively the best way to address these concerns was to survey former and current patients and approach the issue from a patient centric perspective. By understanding the patient's point of view and their expectations for what constituted quality care, Alastair and Cheryl were able to take a new approach to improve the level of care provided and give patients a better hospital experience.
From the outset, it became clear that better staffing would be a key driver for positive change in the patient experience. Patients responded well when they were able to recognise and build relationships with their caregivers. Rather than a large pool of rostered nursing staff and surgeons where patients may be treated by different staff on each day of their stay, the CAPS Clinic concentrated on attracting, training and retaining core staff. Surgeons and nurses are able to build specific experience by working together, rather than random rostered combinations. By providing staff with a stable workload and attractive conditions, staff are happier, staff retention is excellent and the feedback from patients on the levels of care has been overwhelmingly positive.
While the new facility is a completely functional private hospital, careful consideration was made to ensure the environment was as warm and welcoming as possible. During the planning process, patients responded they didn't want the new clinic to feel like a hospital at all, but rather they wanted somewhere they could feel relaxed and recuperate in comfort.
The resulting design boasts bold but tasteful use of vibrant colours with soft furnishings throughout so the clinic feels more like a stylish home than a hospital. Creams, golds and oranges are used to promote healing and a sense of positive energy throughout the building and give the facility a distinct personality - a far cry from the more traditional sterile white and blue.
“Patients and staff are ecstatic about the new look and feel. Patients reactions when they walk in are instant, they immediately feel relaxed and comfortable, while the extra space makes it easier for staff to care for patients.”
The site originally consisted of two distinct buildings linked by an exposed stairwell. After consultation with local architects and planners, a proposal was submitted to combine the two buildings into one cohesive branded space. In the CAPS Clinic, Alastair and Cheryl went from operating from a single 280 sqm practice offering four specialists services under one roof to a specialist 1,400 sqm facility for four individual specialist businesses offering high quality services in their own space.
The flexibility offered in the new space lets work fit in with the owner's lifestyle. In Cheryl's own words, “building a facility from scratch is a difficult and demanding process, and you must be prepared to sacrifice your income for your lifestyle. Delivering a superior level of patient care was very important to us. At the CAPS Clinic, we know our patients are always safe and getting the best possible care.” Previously restricted to treatments requiring local anaesthetic, the addition of a private hospital including complete overnight facilities gives surgeons at the CAPS Clinic the opportunity to significantly increase the range of operations available.
An Investment in the future
Frustrated by the administrative and operating processes dictated by some health fund providers, Alastair and Cheryl wanted the flexibility to be able to control their environment, their team and the training that was provided. Financing the operation of a private hospital is very difficult and many private hospitals offset their operating losses with income from cosmetic surgery. It can be a delicate balancing act.
With the clinic fully operational the owners expect to pay for the development of the CAPS Clinic in 5 -10 years, but look forward to flexibility it offers their lifestyles for the next 20 years.
With such an impressive outcome, is there anything they would have done differently? Cheryl Taylor shares her insights...
“In hindsight, we should have appointed a single company to handle the entire job, including the building and fit out. Coordinating the various suppliers and keeping everyone in constant communication led to a lot of wasted energy and some costly delays. ”
“If you are going to build your own facility, choose your construction company carefully. Medical facility construction is a complex undertaking and entrusting your build to a generalist architect or builder can be problematic. A lot of specialist knowledge is required and the building approval process as it currently stands can be incredibly frustrating.”
“Also, research prices and equipment suppliers... we were quoted almost $200k for a steriliser from one supplier and eventually managed to find one for less than a quarter of that price”.
Would they do it again? The simple answer is that we shouldn't need to.
Was it worth it? Absolutely
“We have glowing referrals coming through all the time from everyone who visits the clinic. We count ourselves extremely lucky to have the beautiful, flexible life we have.