Researching Best Practices

Researching Best Practice Design and Features for a New Kathy's House

The need for a new Kathy's House is compelling. In a recent survey of guests, 39% of patients indicated that they "would not have been able to receive treatment without a facility such as Kathy's House." We continue to break records in the number of families staying at the House. Several times a month guests are placed on a waiting list for a room. From 2001 to 2015 occupancy rates grew by 60%, both in the number of rooms occupied each night and the number of guests in the House. In 2015, almost 9,800 nights of guest lodging were provided and occupancy averaged 76%.

The need for a new facility was further underscored when our landlord, St. Camilus, informed us that our lease would not be renewed when it ends in 2021.

For the past two years, a sub-committee of the Board has been seeking a new site, working with leadership at Froedtert Hospital and other key stakeholders, including Milwaukee County and the City of Wauwatosa. Over 90% of Kathy's House guests are referred by Froedtert & the Medical College of Wisconsin.

In planning for a new House, board members and staff toured 11 leading hospital guest houses across the country. We looked at house designs and program delivery features that best support patient and caregiver wellness. Most other houses had an academic medical center, such as Froedtert & the Medical College of Wisconsin, as their primary referring hospital.

Kathy's House staff and board also met with key departments at Froedtert & the Medical College of Wisconsin to seek their input on features that would best support their patients.

Our favorite hospital guest house is the American Cancer Society Hope Lodge in Iowa City, shown below. The Board of Directors liked the design of this facility because:

  • The design is warm and cozy. The larger communal spaces maintain a home-like environment.
  • The prairie-style is in keeping with an evidence-based practice of bringing nature to patients and families who are experiencing a medical crisis.
  • The open floor plan invites interaction among guests. As well, guests can easily ask for assistance from volunteers and staff.

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