Hospitals use design to improve population health

Not only can hospital design affect patient population health, it may also impact the health and wellness of the local community, according to an article in Healthcare Design Magazine.

Experts have long studied the link between design and overall population health, more so in light of rising rates of chronic conditions like diabetes and obesity, Jason Harper, senior medical planner and associate principal at Perkins+Will in New York told the publication. "People have been looking at that on a variety of scales," he said, "from the materials we specify to the energy efficiency of the buildings we design."  

Hospitals typically are geographically separated from their communities, off of main roads and encircled by parking lots, a design feature that means few people enter their doors if they are not sick or injured, Harper said. But several factors now force hospitals to reconsider this campus model.

For example, for the first time in history, the majority of the world's population lives in cities, which makes it difficult for hospitals to remain separate from their community. "This whole new trend of urbanization is thinking about a live/work/play environment. It's a paradigm shift in how people want to live," Yogi Patil, practice leader of healthcare urbanism at HKS Architects Inc. in Dallas, told Healthcare Design Magazine. As a result, he said, a hospital is "not just a place where you go when you break your hand or are having a heart attack, or where you're living the most stressful moments of your life. It's a place where you can be engaged in day-to-day activity. In what fashion and in which way, that's still being defined."

Some hospitals now turn to a "village" design model, which includes amenities like retail and housing on campus. Florida Hospital in College Park, for example, features employee housing, swimming pools, a fitness center and outdoor kitchens. Not only is this environment more convenient for patients and employees, it encourages the kind of activity that improves population health, according to Jody Barry, administrative director of strategic development for Florida Hospital and Adventist Health System's Florida Division. "What we think we can do is create a panache and magnetism, a reason to engage in healthy activities when you're healthy," Barry told Healthcare Design.

To learn more:
- read the article