SOMERS POINT - Some patients are in wheelchairs, some use walkers.

Shore Orthopaedic Uni-versity Associates, a practice that performs operations from orthoscopic surgeries to total joint replacements, sees plenty of patients with mobility problems.

They may be nervous or anxious as well.

So when the practice decided to build a new medical office on MacArthur Boulevard in Somers Point, it wanted a design, layout, look and function to make mobility easier and to put patients at ease, said Dr. Stephen Zabinski, of Longport, vice president and chief financial officer.

The result is a 10,300-square-foot, nearly $3.5 million medical office building constructed with features such as extra wide hallways, natural light corridors, a secondary waiting area that is outdoors, and patient check-in booths lined with acoustic panels to protect privacy, he said.

"Patients come to the doctors and they're nervous. They may have anxiety because patients may be in pain, they may need surgery and their quality of life is being altered by this condition they want to be taken care of," Zabinski said. "There are environments that can make that go away."

Shore Orthopaedic University Associates currently has a medical building at 710 Center St. across from Shore Medical Center here. It is planning to move into its new building on MacArthur Boulevard in Somers Point on Dec. 31, Zabinski said.

The move also represents another expansion for the growing practice, which expects to have a total of a dozen orthopedic providers in the next six months, he said.

"Everyone who is going to grow and be a larger provider of health care in the coming years has to be in tune with this. They've got to make their office in tune with patient satisfaction and patients' needs, in tune with better outcomes, and also in some ways able to provide a more cost effective, comprehensive care," Zabinski said. "And you can only do that by consolidating services. There are only two ways to keep the cost of medicine down - avoid complications and consolidate services so that care can be administered more efficiently."

The building's architect is Michael Graves & Associates.

The Princeton-based firm's founder was paralyzed from the waist down a decade ago and used his experiences in hospitals and rehab centers to help shape medical offices from a patient's perspective, said James Wisniewski, an associate with the firm and lead architect on the building.

The facility includes various details relating to that theme. When it rains, there is a covered entrance way for patients to pull their cars underneath without getting wet. There are automatic doors.

All surfaces are stark white to help with infection precautions, and all the surfaces are integrated with no crevices to trap dirt, Zabinski said.

The building makes much use of natural light, including light shafts designed to filter sunlight into the middle of the building.

The focus on natural light helps "to take away the fluorescent glare that can heighten that sense of intensity and anxiety," he said.

The building has 13 exam rooms, two X-ray facilities, doctors' offices and Shore Orthopaedic Physical Therapy managed by NovaCare.

This physical therapy area is separated from the office's main lobby by glass windows, a design meant to inspire, said Wisniewski, the architect.

"Seeing people getting back to their life is really important. You can actually see through (the windows) right by the front entrance for a view of people getting that rehab," he said.

Zabinski said elements that are parts of the building - designed to improve patient satisfaction and quality of care while reducing risk of infection - represent the direction health care in the U.S. is going.

"We're fortunate that we're a successful and a big orthopedic group and we can afford to do that to provide better care for our patients for the next 10 to 15 years," he said.

The practice also has offices in Galloway Township, Mays Landing and Cape May Court House.

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