If a pandemic has taught us anything, it’s the importance of two things: the space we live in and our health. These factors were two driving forces behind the Kaiser Permanente pharmacy renovation project in Washington, D.C.

The project began as part of the National Facilities Services overall strategy to implement an updated pharmacy template that promotes workflow efficiency, introduces new equipment, improves member experience and security, and decreases operating costs.

The pharmacy is Kaiser’s busiest on the East Coast—filling more than 1,100 prescriptions per day. Together, Kaiser and Dewberry wanted to create a space to better serve the large number of members and staff it supports. We were able to achieve all those goals—and we did it while the pharmacy remained open for business 24/7." April Vacca and Ellen Augst

To allow the pharmacy to remain open during the renovation, we designed the project in phases. It originally began as a six-phase plan, but in the end, we were able to work with the pharmacy management staff and the contractor to simplify it to only four. This meant the renovation was completed in sections:

  • Stage 1: Construction staging
  • Stage 2: Half of the pharmacy remained operational while the other half was under construction
  • Stage 3: Newly constructed half of the pharmacy operates while the previously operational half is under construction
  • Stage 4: Receiving

The design itself consisted of two main components: the staff zone and the member zone.

Staff Zone

For the pharmacy staff, we wanted to increase workflow efficiencies, add security features, and use durable and low maintenance materials. We implemented ergonomic features to promote comfort and efficiency throughout the workday. To combat leg fatigue from long hours spent standing, we used cushioned flooring and height-adjustable workstations that could be personalized to each employee’s needs.

Streamlined workstations are adjustable and made with low-maintenance materials, increasing comfort and efficiency for pharmacists.
Streamlined workstations are adjustable and made with low-maintenance materials, increasing comfort and efficiency for pharmacists.

We implemented Kaiser’s prescribed shelving to create clear lines of sight throughout the space, which increased visibility for staff. This project eliminated the need for additional shelving by installing eight IntelliCab lockers for storage and dispensing. The lockers automate the process of storing, retrieving, and returning prescriptions using radio frequency identification (RFID). A dispensing robot was also installed for increased efficiency, and we included necessary infrastructure in the event that Kaiser chooses to add more dispensing robots in the future.

Finally, security was enhanced through the installation of three separate overhead coiling doors at the points of sale (POS). This allows the front of the pharmacy to be secured and protects employees during late night shifts. It also helped to keep each phase of the project secure as it was completed.

Member Zone

We designed the member zone to create a welcoming atmosphere in the pharmacy and brighten the space. Our design elements emphasize the flow of the space and create directionality towards the POS, eliminating the need for temporary signage. Additionally, color-changing LED lighting are featured at each POS, which can be changed for holidays or special events.

POS stations enhanced by new glass dividers and color-changing LED lighting.
POS stations enhanced by new glass dividers and color-changing LED lighting.

We also used organic elements in the design to enhance the members’ experience. Organic-shaped cutouts, natural wood, tree motifs, and light colors all add to a sense of healing. For further comfort, we added privacy glass dividers between each POS and at the consulting station.

Organic shapes and materials help to create a welcoming environment in the pharmacy.
Organic shapes and materials help to create a welcoming environment in the pharmacy.

This project was one of our favorite transformations to date. As Kaiser continues to serve more members, we are happy to know that we’ve equipped its staff with an environment that allows them to work efficiently and comfortably. Further, our team is honored to contribute to a space that will make everyone who enters it feel welcomed.