I recently spoke with Susan B. Frampton, president of Planetree Inc. (Derby, Conn.), on the evolution of patient-centered care, how the concept is taking off around the globe, and how the 30-plus-year-old organization has adapted and evolved its mission to continue promoting better healing environments. (You can find the full Q&A here.)

One of the things she discussed during our interview was that we recognize the need to support each other’s care early in life and later in life. For example, it’s common for parents or multiple family members to take their infants or young children to the doctor. We’re also likely to practice that habit when it comes to helping our aging parents and family members get the healthcare services they need.

But during our middle years—our 20s, 30s, 40s—that’s usually not the case.

“Why we would think that somewhere in between people no longer need support is kind of curious,” Frampton says.

However, the current buzz around preventative care and population health suggests we all might benefit from more opportunities to include one’s social network in our care. So what can we do to get there? And what’s the role of the built environment?

Frampton says it starts with involving the individual as well as their social support systems and families and “then making sure that our physical environments support that.”

“It needs to become the norm that when you’re trying to manage a chronic disease and you’re going in to see your doctor that your partner or family members come, too,” she says.

The industry started addressing the situation years ago in pediatric facilities by thinking about design features for family members. Today, it’s the norm to find dedicated family lounges on inpatient floors and pull-out couches alongside patient beds.

“Then you hit the adult wards and you can’t even find a comfortable place for someone to sleep next to their loved ones,” Frampton says.

To address this gap in support for bringing loved ones into the care process, regardless of the patient’s age, we need to identify design features that would facilitate that process and make everyone feel at ease.

What would you like to see happen? Do you have examples of where the built environment is already supporting a family-centered approach to care? Share them here or email me at adinardo@vendomegrp.com.