Published on September 20, 2022

Zoom Call

Building a Hospital on Zoom

Shady Grove’s new patient tower took shape over video conferencing during the height of the pandemic, and incorporated lessons from COVID.

Like many of us, the team charged with planning and designing the new patient tower at Adventist HealthCare Shady Grove Medical Center had to quickly adapt in the early days COVID-19. Large meetings in a conference room were no longer an option, so they did what many of us did – they turned to video conferencing.

“Different perspectives are very important when designing a hospital patient tower like this one,” explains Todd Cohen, Associate Vice President of Facilities and Real Estate at Adventist HealthCare. “We need people around the table, including staff who would be using the space, leadership, architects, designers and many other partners. Their ideas about what the new space should or shouldn’t include were essential.”

As patients with COVID-19 filled hospital beds and visitor restrictions became necessary, gathering around a table at Shady Grove Medical Center wasn’t an option. So instead, the committee began to meet using video conferencing. While the team had to make some adjustments, Todd noted meeting online had some advantages, too.

“We could put plans on the screen for everyone to see. That gave all meeting attendees the opportunity to share their thoughts and advice on the design process and make suggestions,” he states. “It made for a much richer conversation and dialogue.”

Those detailed plan views and purposeful discussions will have a clear impact once the tower opens in 2024.

“Staring at a computer screen all day can get monotonous. It’s easy to miss things,” Todd says. “I recognized that quickly and made sure we stopped at specific points of the design process to methodically comb page-by-page through the plans. This gave everyone a chance to chime in and give it a final okay before moving on to the next phase.”

The impact of COVID-19 on design

The pandemic didn’t only affect how the team planned for the new building. It also greatly influenced several design aspects of the new patient tower.

“It was important to all of us – the design team, the leadership and especially the nurses, doctors and staff – that we take the lessons we’ve learned from the COVID-19 pandemic and apply them to the design. We asked ourselves, ‘What is it that we wished we had during the pandemic?’” Todd shares.

As a result, the new patient tower will incorporate features and amenities that support caregivers and patients – whether they are in the middle of a pandemic or not. Those features include:

  • A clear line of sight to patients and heart monitors so nurses won’t have to unnecessarily enter rooms
  • Larger rooms in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) to better accommodate care teams
  • Cabinets dedicated to personal protective equipment (PPE)
  • Private bays in the Emergency Department that can be sealed shut for infectious patients
  • More negative pressure rooms in the Emergency Department and throughout the hospital
  • An entire floor that can be adapted to caring for patients with infectious diseases
  • Large break rooms with ample natural light for nursing teams
  • Exposure to nature to help promote relaxation and healing
  • A rooftop family waiting room for those with loved ones in the ICU
  • Access to fountains, landscapes and gardens outside
  • A stairway tower dedicated to nurses that lets in abundant natural light


“We all went through a very tough time during the pandemic, so we wanted to pay tribute to our clinicians and be thoughtful of their experiences. And we also want to recognize the experiences of our patients and their families,” Todd says. “I truly believe we have been able to do that with this patient tower.”

Set Your Location

Setting your location helps us to show you nearby providers and locations based on your healthcare needs.