Hospitals play a large role in the physical, social, and economic vitality of their communities. But HKS’s Shannon Kraus, principal/senior vice president, and Lindsey Waters, LEED Green Associate and healthcare and urban designer, think they can do more.

“The built environment may be one of the most important tools we have as a society to positively impact community health,” the speakers say. “Anchor institutions such as healthcare systems are well poised to lead the way on community health conversations to get to the root causes of health as influenced by the built environment.”

During their session, “Beyond Population Health: Improving Health[care] Through Community-Focused Design,” at the upcoming Healthcare Design Academy, February 26 - 27, in Bethesda, Md., they will discuss how healthcare institutions—as well as architects, healthcare administrators, doctors or nurses—can empower individuals to make daily healthy lifestyle decisions.

Healthcare Design: What role would you like to see healthcare institutions play in their communities?

Speakers: Healthcare institutions are major anchors shaping the vitality of our communities. Yet building places that inspire and support wellness goes well beyond the patient experience inside the hospital and the majority of the time is influenced by our homes and communities. Healthcare institutions must take an active role in shaping community wellness outside the walls of the hospital by collaborating with other community organizations to address the unique needs of their community. Healthcare institutions should be community advocates at the table with city officials to find solutions to improving the health outcomes as influenced by the built environment.

Why is there a lack of integration between addressing health and the built environment?

Healthcare systems and architects alike are guilty of focusing on solving problems within the property line in order to deliver hospital-centric care. Population health provides a new lens for systems to address health, while the Affordable Care Act supports a financial model for healthcare systems to keep people healthy and out of the hospital. Traditionally the built environment fell solely in the realm of urban planning and design, but even community place-making efforts are connecting individual health and placed-based strategies.

How can healthcare organizations become places that inspire and promote wellness at their facilities and communities at large?

They must focus on the patient experience inside and outside the walls of their facilities. The campus should provide physical connections to its context, considering how it can promote biking and walking at the facility and in relation to existing networks. Buildings should intentionally shape open space to serve as a park or plaza amenity for patients and as a destination for the broader community.

Many basic urban design principles apply to creating facilities and campuses that promote wellness, as these principles have shaped dynamic healthy places throughout history. Most importantly, healthcare systems must adopt a culture of outreach, in their physical presence, in their processes, and towards the patient population served.

Population health and many other topics will be part of the discussion at this month’s Healthcare Design Academy in Bethesda, Md. For agenda and registration details, click here.