Building community-based healthcare that grows beyond clinic walls

The ongoing pandemic is causing increased anxiety in patient care, which has led to a shift from traditional hospital designs to community-based healthcare. Healthcare leaders and architects are creating new community hospitals that put the patient journey first, extending their care beyond clinic walls and into their local neighborhoods, with an increased focus on holistic health and wellness.

Aging population demographics worldwide are causing a greater focus on chronic diseases, with hospitals and health facilities seeing more demand for chronic care. In Singapore, most long-term patient care is delivered at specialist outpatient clinics in hospitals, leading to congestion and long wait times.

What is community-based healthcare?

Governments and healthcare leaders consolidate resources in order to provide integrated people-centered patient care close to where they live. This led to community-based healthcare facilities, with hospitals, primary care clinics, general practitioners, nursing homes, and other social care providers integrated into a single holistic health and wellness complex at the heart of a community.

Modeled after US Patient Centered Medical Home practices and the Netherlands’ Primary Care Plus Model, the Singapore initiative aimed to reduce hospital utilization, maintain quality of patient care, improve satisfaction, and reduce healthcare-related costs. Ultimately, the vision was to improve the patient journey with a holistic approach to health and wellness in local communities.

Healing and inclusive environment

The patient journey was made smoother and more relaxed rather than feeling clinical, which can trigger anxiety. These community-based healthcare facilities provide therapeutic spaces, fitness facilities, relaxing gardens, and beautiful art installations.

Accessibility: At the heart of the community

Located in areas people already are or frequently visit, the community-based healthcare facilities are also more accessible, often connected to public transport or a short walking distance from where patients live. Especially for the elderly who can no longer drive and rely on family, it reduces obstacles in accessing healthcare.

Community care programs

Community-based healthcare facilities also empower care among locals. Community care programs for residents of the neighborhood, such as public health screening programs or COVID vaccination and testing drives, have fostered awareness of healthy living with a strong focus on preventative care.

Future-proof healthcare design

When designing a modern community health complex, it is crucial to ensure they are flexible in their design to ensure scalability in times of need. You never know what the future might hold, but what is certain is that patients and their community should always come first.

Case Study: Singapore Sengkang General Hospital

Opened in 2019, Sengkang General and Community Hospitals is a seamless and unified, fully comprehensive medical campus that comprises a general hospital, a community hospital, and specialized outpatient clinics. The complex supplies Singapore’s health system with an additional 1,400 hospital beds, with capabilities of providing acute patient care and intermediate and long-term care in a secure and flexible holistic health and wellness environment.

The large complex has a strong, unique architectural identity that distinguished the main buildings to aid orientation around the campus and internally included separate routes for patients, staff, and visitors to prevent infection and ensure efficiency.

The overall design initiates an engaging atmosphere that enhances and facilitates the recovery process. By focusing on the collective people in the community, it provides patient-centric spaces in a friendly, healing environment with areas for the wider community to enjoy. The first floor is called the ‘Community Heart’ as it includes cafes and retail outlets surrounding the main entrance and an open courtyard with a vibrant pedestrian concourse and landscaping. The ‘heart’ is accessible with pedestrian links to the neighboring areas and public transport networks. The public outdoor spaces are complemented by training facilities, multipurpose rooms, and a lecture theatre which may be used for public and community engagement events.

A ‘Wellness Garden’ on the fifth-floor roof introduces a green oasis amid the urban environment. The landscaped garden presents a friendly and therapeutic setting, and the ward blocks all have glimpses over the park. These ward blocks have stepped sections and pocket courtyards that encourage natural light filtering into the deeper parts of the podium.