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Thursday
Apr062017

Uniting Healthcare and Community: The New Mixed-Use Community

Image © Gensler

This post is part of a series related to Uniting Healthcare + Community.

“Less emphasis on illness and more on wellness; less on treatment and more on prevention; less on healthcare and much more on happiness and health.” – Dr. Mark Rowe, A Prescription for Happiness

A people-driven, bottom-up demand is creating an appetite for a more responsive and proactive model of healthcare delivery. People today are increasingly health conscious, and trends in urban living such as polycentrism, walkability and mixed-use development tend to reinforce these healthy value systems and spread them across emerging communities. Grappling with the question of where Health + Wellness fits into the live-work-play paradigm from a theoretical viewpoint, we now ask how does Health + Wellness fit into the new mixed-use community? What does that look like for our communities? Is it an improvement of the current healthcare model, or a transformation of the model entirely? Let’s look more closely at each approach.

1. Improve the experience of the current healthcare model (Micro approach)

As designers, we are constantly rethinking how people experience space, and we believe design can improve our psychological associations to the built environment. Well-designed workspace can jumpstart a flywheel effect on human experiences within our healthcare facilities: a better work environment = happier nurses = happier patients = an enjoyable place, and so on. The idea of harnessing data to inform the design of an environment isn’t revolutionary. Almost 35 years ago, Roger Ulrich’s studies revealed the therapeutic influences that views of nature from a hospital room window had on patients. But data itself is radical because the environment on which it is based remains ever-changing.

2. Change the current model. (Macro approach)

Should we charge ourselves with realizing (and filling) the gaps created by the modality shifts resulting from today’s meandering political and economic chauffeurs? In doing so, we create more opportunities to promote a deeper integration of mixed-use through further inclusion of the health + wellness + healthcare archetype. Just as a macro approach that looked beyond the individual to the greater community revealed the health findings of the Rosetans, this approach requires us to reconsider how place is perceived. For example, redistribution of hospital functions, concierge and executive health hubs, centers for healthcare innovation, VIP-centric health, and hospitality integration, to name a few.

Despite the drastic difference in scale between these two approaches, the commonality is the precedence on the immediate and extensive impacts of human experience. The positive influence of views of nature in a hospital room are equivalent to prescriptions for happiness in an urban realm. The diagram below—a personal favorite from The Power of 10+—offers a simple framework for encouraging smart revitalization of urbanity, with human experience as a priority. Heath & Wellness can play a powerful role in the framework of the urban context of the future, starting at even the smallest scale—a hospital room, for instance.

Image © Gensler. Diagram: Project for Public Spaces.

What’s next?

No matter how it fits in the big picture, there’s a common thread: paradigm shifts within the healthcare model will influence our perception of community. On a variety of scales within the healthcare realm, the industry is shifting. Technology is a game-changer and new players are entering the market. Focusing on the need for changing how we perceive healthcare isn’t novel. Analysts at McKinsey have long observed demands for hospitals to reorganize operations within a narrower focus and conceivably different constructs. This emphasizes the importance of delivering a quality service rather than volume.

This merges further with the fundamentals of business models that mix uses to achieve easier development financing (mixed-use), or even those that prioritize densification purely for the encouragement of people to trade their cars in for bicycles. It’s only a matter of time, and the totality of healthcare just may abide to the same model in ways beyond that of the pocket clinics and consolidated care centers we see rooting amidst the urban fabric. As trends continue to unveil the appeal of spatial proximity in our communities, the future of health + wellness + healthcare will begin to speak to the convergence with other uses. The future is ours for the making, and it can be healthier—just ask the Rosetans.

Stay tuned for our next post in this series on the future of the healthcare campus, which takes a look at what corporate campuses and healthcare campuses can learn from each other.

Brian Cummings is a licensed architect with diverse experience leading an international array of successful projects amid a multitude of scales. Through this wide lens, he roots the belief that good design is simply good design—from a logo or a coffee cup, to an airport or an entire city. Despite how “good” is gauged, it’s indisputable that design predicated on human experience is a healthy start to realizing it. Contact him at Brian_Cummings@gensler.com.