Co-Diagnosis: An Interdisciplinary Design Study of Inpatient Units for Mental and Physical Health

Sep 01, 2023

The contemporary crisis in mental health underscores a need in the healthcare industry to design healing environments for patients who suffer from mental as well as physical illnesses. There is a gap in the literature and little precedent in the industry for designing inpatient units to meet the needs of patients who require hospitalization for medical conditions, and who also suffer from mental and behavioral health conditions. To explore this design problem, we organized an interdisciplinary workshop that engaged healthcare providers, administrators, and architects with undergraduate and graduate students in art, architecture, communications, and urban design. The goal was to examine barriers and opportunities to create a new type of hybridized medical-behavioral health unit to address the needs of co-diagnosed patients as well as their healthcare providers. Lived experiences of doctors, nurses, and healthcare designers were integral to forming an understanding of the design problem and creating concepts for this largely unprecedented space type. The workshop took place at Barnes-Jewish Hospital, an urban academic medical campus, where an existing inpatient unit was identified for renovation to pilot a ‘safe unit’ that cares for medical patients with mental and behavioral health co-diagnoses. Insights from this interdisciplinary collaboration create pathways for future exploration in design research and industry application.

Valerie Greer, AIA, LEED AP, NOMA (University of Utah)
Donna Ware, AIA, EDAC (BJC HealthCare)
Emily Johnson, AIA, NCARB, EDAC, WELL AP, LEED Green Associate (Perkins &Will)
Virginia Pankey, AIA, LEED, EDAC (HOK)
The Academy Journal of the AIA Academy of Architecture for Health (AAH)
Published & professionally reviewed by: 
The American Institute of Architects (AIA)

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