What Sports Medicine And Academic Medical Centers Have In Common

Everyone Benefits from High-Performance Design That Breaks Down Silos

August 8, 2016

Healthcare Architect / Partner, NBBJ


Editor’s Note: This post was originally written for the August 2016 issue of Healthcare Design.

Thinking about the August issue of Healthcare Design, at first it seemed strange to pair sports medicine and academic medical centers. But the more I thought about it, the more it made sense. Do they have anything in common, AMC facilities and sports facilities? You bet they do.

Many sports medicine programs are taking what had been a siloed service, typically just orthopedics and maybe rehab, and embracing nutrition, research, psychology, even technology and industry, with devices such as Fitbit and other innovations. What used to be segmented is now more collaborative, which will surely lead to better outcomes and a more multidisciplinary, inclusive environment for care providers, from the top orthopedic surgeons to the physical therapists and others.

At the same time, AMCs have also been innovators at breaking down the silos between disciplines—a good example is the interventional platforms that have brought surgery and imaging together. But as the example of sports medicine suggests, do we have to go beyond that? As AMCs transition to caring for the “whole person,” departments like nutrition and psychology, even industry and technology, can’t be relegated to a back corridor in the oldest building in the hospital.

But if sports medicine is taking us to new frontiers of inclusiveness, it can still learn much from academic medical centers. AMCs are 24/7 facilities—can sports facilities be 24/7 as well? How can sports medicine be integrated with ballparks, community centers, neighborhoods, restaurants and retail? Can they adopt the research and innovation mindset of AMCs and industry? Can they encourage physical activity in the community, beyond the immediate patients they serve?

And both institutions emphasize performance. Athletes, of course, understand the importance of exercise in enabling their bodies to perform at their peak; however, research also shows us that exercise also activates thinking and enables the brain to perform at its peak. For sports medicine and AMCs alike, we need to design environments for health and exercise, in order to achieve high performance of both mind and body.

So there are links of learning between AMCs and sports medicine, and it goes both ways. Likewise, we as designers need to get out of our silos and embrace other industries, other thinking, other forms of creativity, other forms of research—more so than ever, because healthcare is changing so fast. In healthcare, we must design for performance, so while we have long talked about hospitality, now we need to look beyond that, to industrial design, biology, chemistry, analytics and more. We have to be as multidisciplinary as we’re asking our clients to be. We have to bust down those silos.

Image courtesy of MilitaryHealth/Flickr.

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