Healthcare design has changed significantly over the past few decades. Years ago, the focus was simply on the functional requirements of a healthcare facility, but this isn’t the case any longer. Today, healthcare facilities are required to meet new demands and must be capable of adapting to changes in technology at a moment’s notice. They are fighting for patients and staff, and facilities are an important factor in both parties’ decisions to visit or work for a healthcare provider.
Previously, healthcare had to restructure and react to newly introduced policies for reimbursement. This brought about the introduction of outpatient facilities that are common today. But these facilities are significantly different from traditional hospitals, both in terms of their design and functionality.
Technology in healthcare also continues its evolution, bringing with it new efficiencies, while seeking to deliver more comprehensive definitive diagnoses. Patients are no longer required to travel for a treatment, procedure, or simple exam. In light of this, new facilities continue to adapt and change. As architects, we must constantly be aware of these new trends and understand their use-cases to better help our healthcare clients.
Advances in Technology
Some advancements in basic equipment are as simple as patient beds that now have Bluetooth, which can report a patient’s status, such as temperature, weight, and even positioning. Nurse call systems can track and record the length of response time to a patient. In-room televisions that provide hospital services, food menu options, and nurse service boards are becoming commonplace. And the technology continues to advance rapidly, placing new demands on facilities and the designers who serve them.
New high-resolution cameras even enable specialists to view a patient's retina from twelve feet away! Systems such as these allow the patient to communicate directly with different specialists, some of whom may be thousands of miles away. All orders can then be recorded electronically for the in-house physicians and nursing staff to follow and administer the required care. Remarkably, new technology is also capable of transmitting a patient’s vital signs to the remote physician in real-time!
Many of these new technological advancements are demanding specific design components and should be considered from the beginning.
Mobile Tech is Changing Healthcare
Other technologies that many healthcare organizations seek to implement are platforms that work in concert with a patient’s phone. These apps allow patients to add appointments to their devices, turning their mobile system into a way-finding device that greets them and provides a path through the facility, giving explicit directions on where to go. This is much like your phone’s mapping application for turn-by-turn directions and visual maps.
There is also talk of new systems that can record all doctor-patient conversations, then proceed to use voice recognition software to identify each voice to create a word transcription for the physician to review and make additional notes or corrections. This is added to the patient’s electronic record, eliminating the need for the physician to dictate or have a service transcribe it.
Undoubtedly, the medical world is changing very quickly, and design considerations must reflect the latest technological advancements. While not all of these technologies will directly impact physical design elements, it is vital that architects and designers remain fully aware of what’s going on in medical technology. A collaborative approach to design will help ensure all parties are engaged, involved, and successful!