The Brooklyn Medical Relations Council recently asked The Center for Health Design to bring together a small, diverse group of industry leaders to help plant the seeds for a potential new hospital to break ground in Brooklyn, N.Y., in the next few years. The location is in a section of the Manhattan borough that has a very diverse community, both economically and ethnically—from the ultra-orthodox Satmar Hasidic Jews and the ultra-hip 20-somethings to the very wealthy and those struggling below the poverty line. Multiple hospitals already in the area are struggling financially, and with poor health outcomes in some cases, so the opportunity is ripe to help create the next generation of healthcare that can contribute to Brooklynites’ quality of life today and well into the future.

The Center assembled a group of 13 professionals with backgrounds in architecture, interior design, hospital administration, research, building codes, technology, and sustainability to spend three days in Brooklyn thinking about what an idealized future of healthcare could be. The group started by looking at the big picture with discussions ranging from the types of services that should be provided to the role a healthcare institution could play in a community’s health, and then drilled down into how to answer the specific needs of these residents. On day two, the group focused on some key questions, including the types of services to be provided, how the hospital would be connected to the greater community, its need to change over time, and the ultimate design of the facility.

The group determined that the new hospital will be a central source for primary care, ambulatory specialty care, acute care, rehabilitation, and support services for continuing and end-of-life care. As such, it will need to reach into the community to provide programs that encourage healthy behaviors and compliance with healthcare treatments. Synergistic programs will also be established at schools, synagogues, restaurants, etc., that will support both the hospital and related neighborhood programs. In this way, the hospital can create and sustain a culture of health for residents.

Additionally, the group identified some key themes to drive the design and development of the facility, including:

Respite. The goal is to provide a hospitality-focused facility with spaces that allow patients to recover for seven to 14 days following treatment or after having a baby, especially given that many mothers may be returning home to large families with many children. These spaces should be customizable according to patient type and needs.

Obstetrics. The group saw an opportunity to redefine the normal childbirth experience to become a celebration of life by providing customizable spaces for mothers in the delivery room. These spaces must accommodate large groups since many in the orthodox Jewish community have large families of six to 12 children. Additionally, mothers should be allowed to enter the respite space post-delivery. Freestanding birthing centers associated with the hospital are another consideration as well as in-home monitoring pre- and post-delivery.

Mixed-use development. Providing services that go beyond the delivery of clinical care is important. Opportunities for mixed-use development can attract synergistic retail spaces ranging from day spas and child care to eyeglass shops and bodegas offering healthy food—all serving the community as a whole as well as staff, patients, and visitors. Additional opportunities include space for children’s playgrounds or access to gardens as well as community services and activities that educate individuals about healthy behaviors.

Inpatient care. Rooms should be as flexible as possible with an emphasis on family accommodations and patient control of the experience, such as food delivery choices and music, temperature, and lighting controls.

Population health. The activities and services of the new hospital should be based on existing and future demographic analysis of the population being served. It will be critical to define existing and anticipated technologies that will provide real-time data to health professionals to develop preventive measures to influence health.

Behavioral health. The creation of a “life-balance center” where people focus on healthy lifestyle changes and are provided the services and resources to support them in maintaining that balance would be integrated into primary care services. Therapy spaces should also be provided for all behavioral health conditions, such as substance abuse, which often aren’t acknowledged or addressed early enough.

A full report was created for the client and will be available for others to glean information from and add to in order to further envision a picture of idealized health for their communities.

Participants included:

  • Rosalyn Cama, president and principal interior designer, CAMA
  • Matthew A. Finn, president and director of applied research, Cognitive Design
  • Carolyn Glaser, vice president for strategy and operations, The Center for Health Design
  • Robin Guenther, principal, Perkins+Will and senior advisor, Health Care Without Harm
  • Debra Levin, president and CEO, The Center for Health Design
  • Don Orndoff, senior vice president, National Facilities Services at Kaiser Permanente
  • Tanya Paz, senior designer, CAMA
  • Michael Pomarico, principal-in-charge, Pomarico Design Studio Architecture
  • Barry S. Rabner, president and CEO, Princeton HealthCare System
  • David Ruthven, creative lead, Philips Design

Representing the Brooklyn Medical Relations Council:

  • Tom M. Jung, Thomas M. Jung Consulting
  • Cynthia Khan, vice president of strategic planning, Northwell Health

Debra Levin (pictured above) is president and CEO of The Center for Health Design. She can be reached at Carolyn Glaser is vice president for strategy and operations at The Center. She can be reached at