We’ve entered a new era in healthcare that’s making several institutions rethink how they operate, how they relate to their community, and how they can be most effective.

The Affordable Care Act brought a focus on prevention and wellness, which has become a new paradigm for healthcare providers. At the same time, concerns about HCAHPS scores, the continuum of care, and a governmental focus on population health is driving facilities to look at their campuses and communities with new eyes, shifting the way we think about master planning.

In the past, healthcare campuses were designed inward, with a focus on operations and traffic movement on-site. In many cases, a “sea of parking” would separate the facility from its surrounding neighbors; there used to be almost no interaction with the community at large.

Planning today is changing this concept and looking to develop campuses that interface with communities, providing not only healthcare but opportunities for connections with businesses, residences, and public spaces. The idea of a health district has emerged and changed how healthcare master planning is done.

The future of hospital campuses looks very different when it’s thought about as a health district. We can envision much more access that’s pedestrian, we can see building scales that make a connection between the hospital (large scale) and housing (small scale).

We imagine there will be a new mix of commercial areas, wellness programs, and public spaces—all connected through a campus that interacts and relates with its community, providing outreach programs and encouraging people to be healthier.

In today’s world, we already see many hospitals having programs like a farmers market and areas for exercise. This is just the beginning. Healthcare campuses now have the opportunity to become a beacon for their community and the people that live in that area, and it will make for a very interesting new paradigm as we develop new master plans.

For more on the concept of health districts, see “Designing for Wellness: The Healthcare Campus of the Future.

Tatiana Guimaraes is the 2015 president of the AIA Academy of Architecture for Health and senior medical planner and senior associate at Perkins + Will. She can be reached at Tatiana.guimaraes@perkinswill.com.