More patients today are demanding care options that include wellness programs, natural healing treatments, alternative therapies, counseling, and on-site imaging, lab and pharmacy services—all under one roof. In response, healthcare organizations are taking cues from the retail and hospitality sectors and offering specialized care approaches—called boutique outpatient facilities—that offer services and treatments not necessarily available at larger, more conventional ambulatory care centers or hospitals.

The boutique outpatient clinic for Southwest College of Naturopathic Medicine (SCNM) in Tempe, Ariz., a community of naturopathic healing, exemplifies this trend. Designed by Shepley Bulfinch (Phoenix, Ariz.), in association with Kitchell Construction (Phoenix), the 14,000-square-foot outpatient center houses a mix of teaching, research, and clinical areas, including an IV-therapy suite, two surgery rooms for minor procedures, 13 general purpose exam rooms, and six classrooms for students and supervising physicians.

A medicinary stocked with dry herbs, vitamins, botanical tinctures, and homeopathic remedies and a community outreach clinic with 25 private-practice rooms used for physical exams, hydrotherapy, acupuncture, and counseling are included on-site.

Another feature at the SCNM clinic is the “talk” rooms, where patients can engage in a consultative exchange rather than a clinical one, enabling the medical faculty and students at SCNM to focus on the whole patient and the whole family by including behavioral health services.

The boutique facility is designed to connect patients and staff with nature, including walls of windows in the corridors, waiting lounges, and classrooms that provide access to natural light and views of the exterior courtyards, which are rich with allergen-free, drought-tolerant plantings and wildlife.

Designers constructed the building using environmentally friendly and natural materials such as cellulose-based fiberboard for sound control and wood ceilings and millwork defining the main public spaces. The furniture was ordered early so it could be delivered and unwrapped in an off-site storage facility to reduce off-gassing in the finished space.

While demand for new technology, improving efficiencies, and lowering costs will continue to drive the next generation of healthcare design, facilities still need to focus on delivering what patients desire. Boutique outpatient clinics that focus on specialized service within a patient-centered experience will have the edge.

Alison Rainey, AIA, is a director at Shepley Bulfinch (Phoenix, Ariz.). She can be reached at