Editor’s Note: This post is adapted from a presentation delivered at the WSJ Tech Health conference on February 7, 2019.
In healthcare design, it’s difficult to predict how quickly technology will impact facilities. It takes seven to 10 years to plan, document and construct a new complex healthcare environment — that is a long time, and these buildings have to remain highly productive for 30 to 50 years. How can we even begin to think about the technology needs 20, 30, 40 years from now?
Our healthcare clients are worried about many aspects of technology today. For instance:
- AI and deep learning: How much space do we provide for these things? How will they affect clinical workflows and the way we plan a facility?
- Driverless cars and ride-sharing like Uber Health: Some regulations require that we provide x number of parking spaces based upon the patient volume that goes through a hospital — in some of our urban hospitals, as many as 1,000 parking spaces underground. We’re designing those to be flexible, but what about the future? Will there be a need for them?
- Wearable devices, and how you connect with your provider: What will be the impact on ambulatory clinics? How many, and what kind, will we need? Will our patients feel isolated? What about the human touch with the care team?
- Hospitals right now have robots delivering many materials: Will there be more? Should they share corridors with humans?
We believe there are bigger opportunities for technology to also raise our human potential and experience within healthcare facilities. For me, there are six takeaways:
- The virtual connection will be the norm throughout a patient’s care. We have to get comfortable with that.
- The virtual room will be just as important as, and maybe even more important than, the physical room, in terms of delivering care and an elevated patient experience.
- We want to be mindful of the potential isolation that the individual technology can bring forth. It’s important that there is still the human touch and human interaction in healthcare.
- The interaction between people and machines will require a whole new design approach. Already, a gap exists between technology and design, and we need to be cognizant of that in the future.
- Places of healing, recovery and connection are still very, very important. We are human, and we need to have those spaces alongside technology.
- Finally, we need to remember the basics: light, nature, the human touch and quality environments.
What will that look like? Imagine a patient room tailored precisely to you and what you require to become well. It measures and monitors your body systems and emotions, it understands your social needs, and it physically and visually adapts the room and its technology accordingly. It can predict your emotional needs, your mood, your metabolic rate, and impact them through what you see, what you feel and what you hear. It can proactively adapt so your family members can help you get well and be an active part of your care team. A space that heals you not just clinically, but socially, mentally and spiritually.
I don’t have all the answers, but it’s an exciting time. We know that technology is going to be more important today and for the future. I always return to one question: how can technology, in the field of healthcare, which has the most joyous times and the most difficult and stressful times, allow us to be more human?
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