Jack Uldrich
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Designing Hospitals with the Future in Mind

Posted in Health Care


Take a look at the picture to the right. It’s a hospital circa 1910. Do you notice anything special about the photo? If you’re like most people you probably don’t. What makes the hospital interesting are the steps. The implicit message they sent to a prospective patient was that they had to be healthy enough to walk up the steps before the hospital could serve them.

In 1910, Tuberculosis, Typhoid, Diphtheria and Small Pox were the leading causes of death; less than two percent of hospital patients were considered “retired;” and healing was the exception–not the rule. Obviously, a great deal has changed in the past 100 years but it’s important to realize that things are going to change even more in the future and hospitals and healthcare facilities must think through these implications now.

Advances in biotechnology, nanotechnology, stem cell research, genomics, robotics, social networking and wireless technologies–to name just a few–are going to revolutionize healthcare in the years and decades ahead. Consider the following:

–Continued exponential advances in computers; Internet bandwidth and sensors are altering how providers monitor patients’ health. Remote monitor tools, for example, not only have the ability to keep a great many patients from needing to visit the hospital in the first place, they will also allow more patients to leave the hospital quicker because the doctor will be able to monitor patients progress from home. Such tools will alter the throughput and turnover rates in hospitals dramatically.

–The price of sequencing the human genome has plummeted from an astronomical cost of $70 million in 2007 to less than $10,000 today. By 2012, the cost is expected to drop below $1000. The amount of genomic information that will soon be available could transform the treatment of some cancers as effectively as Jonas Salk’s vaccination addressed Polio. If so, what does the oncology ward of the future look like?

–In 2005, less than one percent of all prostatectomies were performed by robots. In 2010 this figure will reach 70 percent. As monumental as this change has been it just the first ripple in a real sea change. In the coming years, robots are also expected to perform hysterectomies, heart surgery, and eventually even brain surgery.

The pace of change in the healthcare industry is accelerating exponentially. Those organizations don’t prepare for this future will be left with facilities that are prepared to treat the wrong clients for the wrong diseases with the wrong tools. It will be the metaphorical equivalent of making patients walk up a flight of stairs to receive treatment. The bottom-line is this: if you want your facility to send the right message tomorrow, you must think through these issues today.

Jack Uldrich is a healthcare futurist and author of Jump the Curve: 50 Essential Strategies for Dealing with Emerging Technology. This November, along with Rebecca Hathaway, Senior Vice President, HMC Architects, he will be presenting a session for the Healthcare Design Conference entitled “Designing in an Era of Exponential Change–How to “Jump the Curve” to a Smarter Healthcare Future.”

For other articles relating to the future of health care, check out the following:

Social Networking: The Future of Health Care

The Future of Health Care is as Near as Your iPhone

Healthcare is the “Verge” of Something Big

Here Comes Intelligent Medicine

The Future of Healthcare is Accelerating

Personalized Medicine’s Accelerating Future

The Future of Health Care: Preventing Disease

Health Care Providers Need a Second Life

The Future of Health Care: Part 3 (Robotics)The Robot Will See You Now

Hospitals Robotic Future: Part 2

Hospitals Robotic Future: Part 1

Hospitals Get a Lift

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