Hospital design is evolving rapidly, and hospitals are no longer simply spaces where healing takes place. Evidence-based design, coupled with quickly evolving technology, are transforming hospital and healthcare facility design so that buildings themselves can now play a key role in caring for patients. Technology already has been integrated into healthcare processes: from digitized health records to hospital beds that can turn bedridden patients to reduce bedsores, smart technology is helping to improve the quality and safety of patient care.
Today, evidence-based strategies that incorporate elements like scenic views and Healing Gardens (https://www.takingcharge.csh.umn.edu/explore-healing-practices/healing-environment/what-are-healing-gardens) into hospital design contribute to patient well-being and improved healing outcomes. Now smart building technology is changing the landscape of patient care as well. Smart devices and monitors have the ability to track individual patients within a facility’s care. They can also track medications to possibly eradicate dosage and timing errors. Smart buildings can increase workflow efficiency and ensure that energy use is optimized.
The idea of the smart hospital should be thought of in terms of concept rather than an actual set of technological things. In other words, it’s not so much about the latest gadgets, but more about designing and optimizing a set of meaningfully interconnected devices and systems that can improve efficiency and the patient experience.
In fact, there are so many possibilities available, that strategic design is crucial when upgrading an existing healthcare centre or designing a new facility. Targeted planning and visioning with interdisciplinary teams, guided by technology design experts, can ensure that next-generation healthcare facility design is ahead of the curve and will have the capability to adapt to new technologies as they evolve. Smart technology should be adopted to solve specific challenges or enhance the purpose of a facility rather than focusing on the technology itself. Visioning sessions can lead to unique solutions that implement present and future technology to improve patient care and will influence healthcare design in the future.
Some innovative examples of smart technology healthcare design that have already been developed through problem-solving design include:
- Security enhancement for patients: wearables track who should be in a hospital area and who shouldn’t. For instance, hospital bracelets on newborns track who is with the baby. If the child is removed from an authorized area or an unauthorized attempt to remove the tag is attempted, the smart systems can lock down elevators and exit doors and trigger alarms for staff.
- Smart Workflows for staff: Voice-activated virtual assistants can be literal lifelines for patients who are unable to push call buttons for staff. Voice-activated devices can connect directly with nursing staff if a patient is in distress or needs assistance. Staff are not tied to workstations since their own devices can help them monitor their patients and respond as needed.
- End-to-end experience for patients and visitors: From the moment patients and visitors encounter a healthcare facility, the user experience can be made more intuitive and easier to use. Parking apps can help find parking spaces, while information kiosks and queue management systems can help make check-in more efficient. Wristbands can track patient movement and connect them to medication and treatment protocols, so that timing and dosage are tracked, and human error is mitigated, while abnormal or critical responses in the patient can alert staff automatically and attended to immediately. Check-out is already integrated with patient records and could make follow-ups and future medical appointments more seamless.