Small Community? Big Healthcare Solution

By Rebecca J. Lewis, FAIA, FACHA, CID
Principal, Director of Healthcare Design

In the past few years, a new trend in the healthcare industry has been appearing in urban and suburban communities across the country. They sit in the heart of the neighborhoods they serve, with not a single inch of their 20,000-60,000 square feet wasted. Known as micro hospitals, these new facilities pack maximum care into a minimal space, with emergency services, diagnostic and imaging abilities and inpatient services. Imagine a full-service hospital shrunk in the wash, so to speak, and you’ll be on the right track. And, as more and more of these micro hospitals appear in urban and suburban environments, DSGW is leading the call to move these facilities into rural communities, as well.

Here are three major ways DSGW believes a micro hospital can transform care in a rural community:

Just the Right Fit
Critical Access Hospitals in rural communities have 25 inpatient beds or less. But for many rural communities, that’s still too big. A micro hospital typically includes anywhere from 8 to 15 beds, but is designed to flex in line with community.

When we design a micro hospital for a rural community, we focus on flexibility. Every square inch is designed with multi-use in mind, a procedure room can turn into a treatment room or vice versa. A micro hospital is a fully adaptive facility that can change with the community’s fluctuating needs.

A True Community Center
Micro hospitals are magic for a rural community. Because a micro hospital is small and typically constructed on a smaller site, it can be more centered and responsive to the community needs.

We can design it so that it looks like a part of the community it serves, rather than standing apart. Once that happens, everything changes. When a healthcare facility blends with its surroundings, community members are more comfortable visiting and using the facility.

We love to design our micro hospitals with a meeting room that can become a flexible community use space. The local Boy Scout troop or the quilting club hold their weekly meetings there; then when one of them needs medical care, they are less intimidated or apprehensive about visiting the facility because it’s a space they are already familiar with. They know how to navigate it, they might even know the staff. It’s a place associated with things they love, within the community they love, so their whole experience is influenced by those good feelings. That can have very real improvements on a community’s overall health and quality of life.

It Can Grow with the Community
Micro hospitals require far less time and money to build than a regional care center. Even more appealing for small, rural communities is that they can also be built in phases. Maybe a rural community has a real, immediate need for emergency services. We can design a full-featured free-standing emergency department, clinic or surgery center that, years from now, when the community need grows, will be the centerpiece of a micro hospital built up around it.

The micro hospital is an ideal way to ensure that the healthcare facilities we’re designing are complimenting services, not replicating them. It’s an exciting option for a lot of communities that feel they aren’t large enough to have a hospital. Their flexibility and fit allows micro hospitals to enter into a service community that otherwise wouldn’t have healthcare available.

When you know your community and understand your community’s healthcare needs, the micro hospital allows you to create a custom platform to respond to those needs. They can become more than a healthcare facility. A micro hospital has the ability to become a centerpiece in a rural community’s daily life.