In this series, Healthcare Design asks leading healthcare design professionals, firms, and owners to tell us what’s got their attention and share some ideas on the subject. Sabah Mohammed is an architectural designer at Perkins&Will (Atlanta). Here she shares her thoughts on healthcare access, and quality, and how they are shaping the future of healthcare design.

  1. Healthcare happens in communities

Health systems are investing in the communities as a path to addressing the social determinants of health (SDOH). Insurers such as UnitedHealth, CVS Health, and Anthem are investing in an array of services and capital projects that make sure patients are getting the right care in the right environment, which helps address SDOH upstream and strengthen a community’s trust in the healthcare system. Additionally, interventions such as wraparound clinics and medical homes that provide longitudinal care after patients depart the front door of the hospital can reduce emergency department utilization and recidivism through prevention. Project teams with cross-sector collaboration between urban design, housing, health, and landscape design will be better positioned to tackle projects whose programmatic needs can’t be siloed.


  1. Improving access to quality care

A variety of models are helping to improve access to care, such as mobile health clinics, which can provide individualized care, and mobile vaccine units, such as one that Perkins&Will developed as part of a COVID-19 response to support immunization at scale. CityBlock Health, a New York-based healthcare provider to Medicaid and Medicare recipients in low-income communities, utilizes a neighborhood health hub model that prioritizes providing care outside of hospitals and doctors’ offices whenever reasonable. Hubs are built within existing trusted spaces such as community centers and are operated by partners who have a community history. Another example is startup Fabric Health, which is rethinking the doctor’s office and improving healthcare access by partnering with local laundromats that have weekly customers. Visitors can get a cancer screening, have their blood pressure checked, or sign up for health insurance.


  1. The rise of medtail

Medtail focuses on repurposing vacant malls and existing retail spaces into care delivery sites through an adaptive reuse strategy. Retail leaders such as Walmart, CVS, Walgreens, and Dollar General have recognized the valuable access they provide to medically underserved rural communities and have started to overlay healthcare services onto their existing retail infrastructure. For example, Walmart and CVS are dedicating 3,000 square feet of existing retail space in select stores for an eight-room physician’s office and lab.


  1. Focusing on women

Women control more than 80 percent of the healthcare spending decisions, therefore health systems must be designed to cater to the needs of women and families. Startups such as Tia, which operates clinics in New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Scottsdale, Ariz., and Advantia Health (Arlington, Va.) are recognizing this and pioneering hybrid care models that combine primary, behavioral, and gynecological care to give women a “one-stop-shop” for their healthcare needs. Seamless patient experience across physical- and digital-care modalities also are being prioritized as design drivers. Firms will need to expand their project-delivery capabilities and expertise by hiring a broader spectrum of talent, including clinicians, user experience researchers, and statisticians who bring subject matter expertise on the drivers initiating the shifts such as clinical innovation as well as consumer changing preferences.


  1. Measuring outcomes

There’s a pressing need to develop a more rigorous approach to measuring building performance and associated outcomes. Post-occupancy evaluations serve to measure these outcomes long after construction is complete and the building is occupied. At the population level, the highest priority must be a better understanding of the design and implementation of behavior-change interventions at scale. At the building level, we need a better understanding of how social factors and environments affect health and well-being.

Want to share your Top 5? Contact Managing Editor Tracey Walker at for submission instructions.