From Empty Lots To Hospitals, New Purposes For Standard Spaces

Apr 19, 2014
Originally published on April 19, 2014 6:28 pm

The online magazine Ozy covers people, places and trends on the horizon. Co-founder Carlos Watson joins All Things Considered regularly to tell us about the site's latest discoveries.

This week, Watson tells about a fake hospital that's testing out high- and low-tech gadgets for real medical discoveries. They also discuss a Los Angeles project seeking to transform vacant lots into parks.

Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit



From NPR West, it's ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Arun Rath.

It's time for the New and the Next.


RATH: Carlos Watson is the co-founder of the online magazine Ozy. Each week, he joins us to talk about what's new and what's next. Welcome back, Carlos.

CARLOS WATSON: Arun, always good to be with you.

RATH: So earlier in the show today, we reported on the National Training Center in Fort Irwin. This is where soldiers go through total immersion simulations in these fake Afghan villages. And you guys have, you're on to a weirdly similar story, but it's involving a fake hospital.

WATSON: You bet. So up here in the Bay Area, Kaiser, the big managed care health organization, with like nine million members, has figured out that a fake hospital is often the best way to provide better care, and in some cases more efficient care.

RATH: So, how does that happen, working with a fake hospital?

WATSON: Within a 37,000 square foot warehouse, they literally built what looks like a hospital from the cubicles to the testing equipment. They not only have all the things you're familiar with, but they're starting to test new gadgets. It's a little 007.

So, for example, they've got this digital health unit. It's essentially a mobile trailer where you could go in, and that's where you do your doctor's visit. All the equipment's there. The doctor is watching you and getting all the data, and you've never got to go across town or in some cases across the country in order to get care.

RATH: It sounds almost a little bit creepy, though, in a way, with a virtual doctor. Is this maybe easing physicians out of the process a little bit?

WATSON: I think, you know, ideally, it will help more people get care, and more quality care, that particular example. But I'll give you another one. This is actually more low-tech. So every year, over a million people unfortunately get the wrong prescriptions from nurses, often because the nurses were distracted or other things were going on.

And so the folks at Kaiser said, let's simulate a real environment and found out that, Arun, they didn't need fancy things. They needed these things that they called Do Not Disturb sashes. So they basically are kind of a thin yellow sash that nurses are able to put around them while they're putting together your medicine and that by itself in some tests lowered the number of mistakes by 50 percent. So it is both a today and tomorrow kind of innovation center.

RATH: Wow. So you have another story that's about another unusual use for a space. This is right here in Los Angeles.

WATSON: Indeed. So as you know, vacant lots can be a huge problem in lots of cities. In South-Central Los Angeles, for example, people were seeing lots of vacant lots, but the other problem they had was there weren't parks to enjoy and walk in. And so a community group called the Los Angeles Community Health Council has created, and are about to launch this website called LA Open Acres, which they call basically a Zillow for vacant lots.

Here are your vacant lots. Here are people who want to turn those into parks. You guys get together and, as they used to say, talk amongst yourselves.

RATH: Huh. Now I didn't realize before reading this, the kind of hoops that people have to jump through to develop a vacant lot that even if you're turning it into, say, a garden, the city makes you hire an architect.

WATSON: It has been absolutely dense and crazy, and is the worst nightmare of a lot of people who see these problems and who want to take action, and realize that you've got to get a number of permits. Sometimes you've got to spend an extraordinary amount of money. And ultimately, the folks in Los Angeles realize that there was a bigger opportunity to kind of pay our people up.

And so you'll be able to begin using the website next month, where you'll be able to look at all the different vacant lots if you're someone looking to kind of buy or transform. The steps you have to take will be coordinated, and ultimately the belief is make it a lot easier for those vacant lots to go from unused to either rental homes, purchased homes or even parks.

RATH: Carlos Watson is the co-founder of the online magazine Ozy. You can explore all the stories we talked about at Carlos, thanks again.

WATSON: Arun, thanks so much. Have a great weekend.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.