What’s the hospital of the future? A prize-winning designer has some ideas

Rapidly advancing technology will require healthcare to undergo huge structural transformations as digitized health platforms change how communities interact with hospitals.

But how does this look in practice? Technology will radically alter hospital design.

There could be a model of future hospitals existing as virtual space with physical outposts rather than a physical space struggling to integrate novel technologies.

Minimizing uniquely clinical high-tech areas, with multifunctional modular areas distributed around the hospital campus and wider community, offers radical flexibility to meet evolving patient needs, says Nick Culley, director of ExR, a company that specializes in immersive education using extended reality.

Here, acute care is coordinated remotely, with the central hub providing in-person care to a small group of patients who have specific needs. Harnessing technology to ensure resource optimization allows increasingly complex geriatric needs to be catered for. This model was selected as a “highly commended” entry to the Wolfson Economics Prize 2021.

Culley will be discussing this model at the upcoming HIMSS22 conference in March in an educational session entitled “Hospitals of the Future: Design in a Digital World.” Healthcare IT News interviewed him to offer readers an advance look at what he will be presenting at the show.

Q. What effects will new digital technologies have on the structure of traditional hospitals?

A. It’s exciting to imagine a future where healthcare is not defined by physical structures. Location will become less of a defining factor in the reach and quality of healthcare that can be provided.

We already are seeing the impact that virtual reality technologies are having on training healthcare professionals and the potential, disruptive impact extended reality technologies will have, shaping how we learn in the future.

The free VRiMS platform I have been involved in setting up has demonstrated how immersive technologies can be used to connect and train surgeons in real time without geographical restrictions. This really opens the possibility that the physical hospital need only be a place for the delivery of the services that cannot be digitized, and we will need to review the core functions of the buildings and ensure that future hospital design is optimized for this and things to come.

Q. How might healthcare technology alter how healthcare could be delivered in the future?

A. The pandemic has shown an accelerated acceptance of virtual and remote healthcare diagnosis, and, in some cases, treatment. It has also demonstrated how individuals have become more aware and empowered to take ownership of their own wellbeing – technology will only improve and increase this notion.

More healthcare will be delivered at home, or in community locations that are more convenient for the patient. Health systems will benefit from greater flexibility in how and when healthcare is delivered, which will increase efficiency and improve patient outcomes.

Q. How could a forward-thinking approach to healthcare technology alter current healthcare planning?

A. A traditional hospital takes 10 years to build. This means they often are designed to accommodate technology that is outdated or obsolete.

Novel healthcare technology is therefore designed to accommodate hospital structures, rather than vice versa. A truly forward-thinking look at healthcare design will appreciate the exponential growth of technology, and hospitals of today will be designed with the technology of the future in mind.

Culley’s HIMSS22 session, Hospitals of the Future: Design in a Digital World,” is scheduled for Tuesday, March 15, from noon-1 p.m. at the Orange County Convention Center in room W414C. Dr. Samantha Field, a public health physician with the National Health Service in the U.K., is co-presenting with Culley.

Twitter: @SiwickiHealthIT
Email the writer: [email protected]
Healthcare IT News is a HIMSS Media publication.


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