Oaklawn visitors to discover it's easier to navigate buildings, register for appointments

MARSHALL – Inside and out, Oaklawn’s main campus is getting a makeover. Visitors are discovering it’s easier to park, get around the buildings and find where they need to go.

“Our extensive makeover of the hospital’s entrance lobby has gone hand-in-hand with the development of a speedier and more efficient registration process,” said Joanna Tarkiewicz, who is Oaklawn’s assistant director of plant operations.

The hospital at 200 N. Madison St. and Wright Medical Building at 215 E. Mansion St. are seeing the completion of the first phase of an approximately $1.5 million project intended to improve exterior signage, eliminate confined waiting areas and launch a new patient-registration system.

The immediate impression to visitors entering the lobby off Madison Street is that the airy entrance is now even more spacious. They’ll see a wide-open waiting area that serves as a registration hub.

“We’re putting our patients at the center of the process, to give them a greater understanding of what position they hold in line,” Tarkiewicz said. “Patients will be assigned a position, and will be able to see at all times how many people might be ahead of them. A bonus is that a patient doesn’t have to be confined to one chair, sitting in a small waiting area.

“Our patients now will be able to judge better how much time might be left for them to, say, talk with friends in the lobby, visit the gift shop, use the restroom or stop in at Ella’s Cafe,” she said.

The old hallway adjacent to the former registration area has been widened from eight feet to approximately 25 feet by eliminating a corner wall, allowing full access to the registration booths.

After registration, patients also will have an easier time finding their way to the medical services in the complex, Tarkiewicz said.

“We started with the idea of reducing waiting time,” she said. “We also wanted to eliminate unnecessary anxiety on the part of our visitors and patients, so we focused on empowering them to know two basic things – where they are and how to get to where they want to be.”

New colored signs already are in place around the buildings’ perimeter to designate parking areas situated nearest the services patients typically seek as they arrive, Tarkiewicz said. Inside the main campus, new interior signs guide visitors with step-by-step systems employing colors, symbols and simple names.

“Even the elevators now are named by specific colors, with the names of those colors written on the doors to accommodate those who have difficulty discerning colors,” Tarkiewicz said. “The hospital directories will guide visitors to the color of the elevators that will take them where they want to go.”

Oaklawn staff conducted considerable research to learn how best to help visitors find their way around, Tarkiewicz said.

“We even followed through on renaming our parking lots and including improved directions so people leaving the building can find their spots more quickly,” Tarkiewicz said.

More improvements are coming, she said.

“We’re starting with five registration booths for now, and during the project’s second phase, we’ll add two more booths – as well as a new office and blood-draw stations, with much better access to the adjacent Radiology Department,” she said. “That should be finished by March of 2019, with a goal of creating a direct route to radiology and reducing the amount of walking for our patients.”

The project has been under consideration for several years, and comes at the conclusion of a three-year experiment with a central-registration model, Tarkiewicz said. Albion-based Gordon Martin Builder Inc. began work on the project in mid-May, using union as well as non-union labor.

“We want to help make the hospital feel less overwhelming and more open and accessible for everyone,” Tarkiewicz said. “Ultimately, we want our patients to be satisfied with their experience at Oaklawn, and we believe this will do that.”