All Is Well: Making The Connection

The effort to promote and support population health and wellness has few rivals in its influence on healthcare today, inspiring the planning, design, and construction community to create environments that help providers deliver on that mission. The solutions being brought to the table vary widely, though, each in its own way answering the call. Healthcare Design asked industry members how wellness is being defined in their work—and they showed us. In this special report, "All Is Well," (to be published in the May 2016 issue of the magazine and in installments online in April and May), find a sampling of the myriad innovative and inspiring approaches being taken.

Forgoing the traditional healthcare environment, Columbus Regional Health set out to serve the health and wellness needs of young professionals living and working in downtown Columbus, Ind., with a fresh alternative that answers its mission to “be your health and wellness partner for life.”

“We needed to show that we offered more than hospital and traditional medical care,” says Denise Glesing, director of business planning and marketing for Columbus Regional Health.

The WellConnect concept opened in December 2013, a modern renovation of a historic building that answers some very specific needs expressed by its user base.

To identify those needs, the system first researched its customers through interviews, focus groups, observational research, and online surveys, in addition to an “industry scan” of corporate health issues and existing wellness programs. And, soon, commonalities surfaced and shaped the ultimate design.

The resulting programming includes classrooms that support a healthier lifestyle and reduce stress, from Pilates and yoga classes to cooking demonstrations and health education. A care center is staffed by a nurse practitioner and physician assistant. Additionally, specialists are available at WellConnect to answer health and wellness questions and help visitors navigate the healthcare spectrum by pointing them to additional resources and services. Medical staff on-site also connect users with primary care physicians, if needed.

The project team included BSA LifeStructures (Indianapolis) handling programming and concept design and Louis Joyner Architect (Columbus, Ind.) as architect and interior designer. Themes include nontraditional environments to mirror the facility’s nontraditional services, such as a storefront look and feel. Separate paths of service support clinical/exam tracks and health/wellness offerings, with flexibility between the two uses operationally. 

And, so far, it’s been a hit, filling a healthcare void that had existed downtown. “When we introduced WellConnect, we purposefully designed it to be an extension of our innovation work, knowing we would be evolving services there over time based on continued customer feedback. We are in the process of experimenting with other service offerings, such as fitness coaching and eldercare resource planning, to see how such nontraditional health services meet customer needs,” Glesing says.—Gary Vance, Vance Consulting