The effort to promote and support population health and wellness has few rivals in its influence on healthcare today, inspiring the planning, design, and construction community to create environments that help providers deliver on that mission. The solutions being brought to the table vary widely, though, each in its own way answering the call. Healthcare Design asked industry members how wellness is being defined in their work—and they showed us. In this special report, "All Is Well" (to be published in the May 2016 issue of the magazine and in installments online in April and May), find a sampling of the myriad innovative and inspiring approaches being taken.


Healthcare Design: When you think about “designing for wellness in healthcare spaces,” what does that mean to you?

Jocelyn Frederick: Designing for wellness is a complex process of balancing the qualitative and quantitative aspects of the built environment. It’s based on an understanding of the multitude of different customer perspectives. Wellness encompasses everything from materials used (carpet, furniture, and the structure itself) to the floor plan, such as locating nurses’ stations, patient rooms, and supply closets in proximities that reduce staff travel time; designing rooms with a focus on patient privacy and safety; and including well-positioned areas for respite and gathering. Then there are the aesthetics (introducing natural materials and daylight wherever possible, and using colors and designs that are uplifting and restful) and, of course, the amenities and programs that promote a healthy lifestyle for the patients, staff, and community.

How are today’s healthcare systems embracing this concept?
Many healthcare systems have begun to address wellness on the surface level. The “traditional” focus has been on improving patient and staff satisfaction; decreasing operational costs; using environmentally friendly and sustainable products; and designing light-filled, anxiety-free spaces. And many systems are successfully incorporating non-institutional, hospitality-like design within the built environment.

The University of Minnesota Masonic Children’s Hospital (UMMCH) took the design for wellness one step further and introduced learning opportunities for its customers. Through the development of the “Passport to Discovery” interactive wayfinding tool, UMMCH was able to celebrate cultural diversity. Each floor features a unique habitat with animals acting as storytellers, reinforcing the importance of healthy environments and global interdependence.

There is much focus on the use of technology and wearable devices as a means to send cues related to improving our health. The translation to the built environment is still evolving. For example, the design of the typical exam room is moving away from the focus on the table to a more collaborative, face-to-face discussion with the patient and caregiver. The use of video conferencing/Skype to interact with patients is also gaining momentum. Questions related to compliance with wearable devices, the ability to provide targeted therapeutics to a larger population base, and the impact of real-time data have yet to be fully proven. The efficacy of these modalities would truly impact how we envision the built healthcare environment.

Where do we go from here? What’s your idea of a dream project that would most fully integrate wellness concepts?
My dream project would be the development of health enrichment centers. These centers would build on each individual’s knowledge to personalize appropriate, healthy-living choices. The center would embrace all aspects of care: clinical, behavioral, social, economic, and environmental. I envision a full-service center with multiple programs including primary care clinics with counseling and group therapy services, demonstration/test kitchens, cyber cafés, and fitness classes. These centers would be located within the communities and would encourage participation and continual learning, welcoming “students” of all ages. The ability to translate the medical jargon into everyday words and behaviors that make a difference would truly support the larger concept of wellness.