Along Brooklyn's Atlantic Avenue, buses and cyclists whiz by to the sounds of car horns, laughing children, and the occasional jazz quartet. Blink and you may miss the storefront Brooklyn Infusion Center, the newest treatment facility of Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center (MSK). Designed by Portland, Oregon–based Zimmer Gunsul Frasca (ZGF) Architects, the 7,745-square-foot clinic, tucked into a ground-level retail space in a new high-end condominium, is a change of scale for the 128-year-old cancer-research and medical-services institute—MSK's flagship hospital on Manhattan's Upper East Side occupies an entire city block. “This is a very nontraditional environment for us,” says Wendy Perchick, chief of strategic planning and innovation at MSK. “I'm still shocked,” she adds with a laugh.
Perchick's humor belies the year of workshops, simulations, and careful planning that went into creating MSK's Brooklyn outpost: Though the prevalence of neighborhood-based cancer care has increased in the last decade, this was uncharted territory for the health-care institution. So, to bring care closer to the 15 percent of its patients living in the borough, MSK worked with ZGF, its oncologists and nurses, and the Boston office of design consultancy IDEO. The team aimed to greatly decrease or even eliminate wait times in the treatment process. Typically, patients wait up to an hour and a half to have their blood drawn and analyzed, and to speak with a physician, before a nurse administers chemotherapy. At the infusion center, nurses make assessments over the phone and pharmacists prepare drugs overnight, so that patients need only arrive and check in on their treatment day, saving time and money for both patients and the hospital.