July 15, 2014
Yogesh Patil, AIIA, MSRE, LEED AP

Healthcare Urbanism is a design philosophy that takes cues from urban design that can be applied in healthcare facility strategy and planning to embrace and adapt with demographic shifts and rapidly changing healthcare delivery systems.

Urban Design has been in practice for thousands of years. It can be traced to early civilizations such as the Indus Valley and Mesopotamian. However, what is new is the application of urban design principles in healthcare planning.  Order, hierarchy of spaces, and contextual design are a few of the fundamental elements that can help planning professionals resolve complex problems. Having the opportunity to work in both arenas of healthcare and urbanism, I see the potential to revive the healthcare master planning process through applying simple urban design principles.

The United Nations have predicted that by 2050 64% and 85% of the developing and developed world will be living in urban areas. Urbanization is a process of modernization. It is the direct result of growth in population as well as mass migration to cities from rural areas due to lack of development. This trend of urbanization brings its own sets of opportunities and challenges.

Fast growing media and communications have caused a shift in the mindset from suburban/rural to urban. Even most rural and remote communities are demanding an urban lifestyle. The Affordable Healthcare Act is one factor that is pushing healthcare design towards a retail like environment and that is not just limited to urban and transitional areas but affluent historic and traditional neighborhoods as well. A challenge is presented in healthcare planning to blend in with the context of stringent city and neighborhood restrictions.

I am using the term ‘urbanism’ in lieu of ‘Urban Design’ explicitly to communicate that Healthcare Urbanism is not limited to just urban settings but can be applied in suburban and greenfield environments as well.



Small hospital in suburban Flower Mound, TX, Source: British Museums


A planning concept for a large Greenfield development in rural Southeast Asia, Source: HKS

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Healthcare urbanism in rural Pennsylvania, Source: HKS


The Affordable Healthcare Act has put many doubts in the minds of healthcare providers questioning the way healthcare will be delivered in the future. Healthcare providers will be rewarded for promoting wellness and keeping patients out of hospitals. This is only possible through taking healthcare to the community. When healthcare goes to the community, we must change the way it is delivered and how facilities are designed. This is a hard sell to healthcare providers.  As reducing healthcare delivery cost becomes more crucial, primary outpatient care cannot consume expensive facility space designed for providing intense care.  As a leading firm in healthcare design, we work with healthcare facilities constrained by resources, have limited funding, are strained by overpopulation, congestion, lack of adaptability, and poor way finding.


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 Connection from inside to out, Source: HKS

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Mobile clinics for adaptability and resiliency, Source: HKS

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Defining urban edge, Source: HKS


So… What does Healthcare Urbanism mean for Healthcare Design?

It means extrovert approach

It means revival of existing campus

It means preaching wellness

It means promoting transit

It means promoting public engagement

It means providing places in and around to eat live and work in the same campus.

It means crafting strategy to using existing community resources for education

It means revitalizing abandon buildings to provide primary care

It means connecting with cities, other institutions and neighborhood associations

It means being resilient, adaptable, and self-sustained

It means creating smaller foot prints

It means designing and planning beyond four walls of the hospital

It means thinking out of the box

-          It means ‘Urbanism’ Healthcare urbanism’


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Campus transformation - Metro Health, Source: HKS


Urban design influences healthcare planning within, around and beyond the facility. HKS’ strong fundamental medical planning and healthcare urban design expertise works seamlessly during visioning, strategy and master planning stages to create ‘Healthcare Urbanism’ and a better community experience.


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First of its kind, healthcare anchored mixed use development, Union Village, NV, Source: HKS







Posted in Health, Urban Design