All planning efforts, ranging from large urban design concepts down to our individual residences dramatically influence the health of our community and the quality of our cities. Gaining ground in the priorities list is an increased focus on wellness.
- At Work – Employee wellness is increasing as a major metric of high-performance workplaces. Lawrence Group recently completed the first Well Certified project in Missouri for the corporate service center for Cushman Wakefield.
- At Home – Desirable communities are those with active centers and useable green spaces that increase the vibrancy and health of urban environments.
- In Between – Focus on active transportation methods and convenient access to services. For example, Cortex District and CityFoundrySTL will be connected by Chouteau Greenway leading from Forest Park to Arch, fostering wellness through connectivity and activity through the central core of our city. It also links two major medical campuses to this central infrastructure. Shown above, CityFoundrySTL’s elevated rail line will promote active transportation and be a major connection to other areas of the city.
Certainly, this applies to healthcare planning too. Keeping a community “well” is key to the future of the healthcare industry and our cities. Here are a few ways that the wellness focus is affecting healthcare planning:
Consumer Convenience: Patients expect their healthcare services to be easily accessible when needed. No one wants to experience an emergency or chronic condition requiring healthcare services. Increasingly, people are starting to take maintenance and prevention more seriously. They are emphasizing well-being in their lives and prefer to keep themselves “well.” In order to do that, they need access to their information on-demand, extended hours to meet conflicting schedules, walk-ins and easy to make appointments. As healthcare costs continue to rise, people are demanding more transparent pricing. The current culture of retail has also influenced that of healthcare environments, encouraging operators to provide convenience and flexibility for its customers while answering their desires for “on-demand,” instant delivery. Some effects of these consumer influences are the increased use of telemedicine and video conference appointments with a doctor and the general spread of facilities away from their core and out into the community.
Shifting Accountability: Many innovations in wellness technology have begun to shift some of the accountability for wellness from the medical professional to the individual. Services and products like Mail-in Genetic Testing Services, wearable technology and health tracking apps are providing consumers with more health information and personal data to learn about their health for themselves. They can research, monitor and even address health issues on their own. This ownership of information and data shifts accountability from a doctor being the only one diagnosing or finding issues, to the consumer who may now discover and search for their own answers. New ownership of health and wellbeing means that people will potentially search for individualized and specific care according to their own needs. Many healthcare organizations are planning for spaces to tailor in specific locations for specialized services as a result.
Not only are people utilizing this data for themselves, but the future of healthcare could include a reliance on these wearables and connections to your provider. Through gathering information from these devices, healthcare systems could learn about your health outside of the office visit, or even by providing their own devices to you, creating a more free and agile facility/system and reducing the time required to gather health statistics.
Changing Service Model: It seems like the deck may be stacked in favor of success for health systems to design with wellness in mind. In response to the Affordable Care Act, health systems are encouraged to provide care outside of the inpatient environment. This requirement, paired with consumer demand for convenience, is driving operators to reach out into the community and spread their services rather than ask the population to come to them. Accompanied with the shift in accountability, many health systems are increasing their focus on providing facilities within the community for outpatient and preventative services. Construction in this sector has grown rapidly over the last few years, and I believe that we will continue to trend in this direction as consumers continue to delve into their own health and continue to focus on wellness.