As the nation’s first hospital specifically designed to reduce medical errors and deliver safe medical treatment, the 80-bed, 191,300-square-foot St. Joseph’s Hospital is a testament to the impact of progressive process-led design, visionary leadership and staff empowerment in tackling healthcare’s most significant challenge—medical errors.

Hired to design a new facility to replace the existing hospital, Gresham Smith collaborated with leading experts in human factors, safety design, standardization and healthcare operations in pursuit of the world’s safest hospital. Our team tapped into safety resources from other industries and applied safety-focused design principles like standardization, automation and adaptation strategies that were not elements of traditional hospital design. Traffic patterns, work processes and flows were closely examined using Failure Modes Effects Analyses to improve safety by targeting solutions that impact the most vulnerable patients.

The facility offers front door personal assistance and simplified 24-hour access through a single portal of entry for all patient services. Patient rooms are all private, functional, efficient and identically configured to enhance safety through built-in familiarity. Each room offers excellent patient visibility for staff from an attached care provider alcove that contains patient-specific documentation, medication and supply dispense functions. High-risk tasks like medication delivery are automated, and outpatient services like surgery, radiology and emergency can share adjacent exam and prep rooms to adapt to changing daily census demands.

Public and service pathways were carefully separated, and inclusion of healing elements are evident throughout the facility. Craftsman-era rich wood tones and stained glass are infused into the warm, comfortable atmosphere reminiscent of a winter ski lodge. Facility growth and changes were carefully considered to meet the technological and automation demands of the future without disrupting necessary department adjacencies and vital traffic flow patterns developed to compel the safe delivery of care.

The safety precautions designed into St. Joseph’s Hospital received national recognition, and the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality provided a $1.3 million research grant to test them. The project’s focus on patient safety reduced medical error by 39 percent, infections by 76 percent and patient falls by 80 percent along with improvements to operational efficiency, healing environments, family-focused care and significant reductions in construction cost. The new St. Joseph’s Hospital has forever changed healthcare delivery, design and construction processes.


St. Joseph’s Community Hospital of West Bend


West Bend, Wisconsin

Project Type



West Bend

West Bend

Project Contact

Our team designs with genuine care for ingenious solutions.

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Jeffery Morris AIA, EDAC, LEED AP
Jeffery Morris AIA, EDAC, LEED AP
Senior Healthcare Principal