Healthcare systems around the world are feeling a historic strain from fighting a global pandemic. Those challenges are accelerating the way we think about, use and design the spaces that provide the services we need to stay healthy. How do we continuously adapt to changing needs? How do we keep the patient at the core of healthcare design?
As part of our 2021 Insight Series, Vice President Frank Panici hosted a roundtable discussion with integrated team members from Health Sciences who identified shifts in virtual healthcare and community hubs where patients can get services at home or close to home – only traveling to hospitals for essential care. These shifts have made us reimagine design to keep the focus on the patient.
How is technology changing the way designers approach healthcare design?
Frank Panici, Vice President
The shift to virtual care, whether it’s meeting your family doctor on a video call, using telehealth through a hospital or using data-driven self-care is impacting healthcare design. The emergence of the “digital hospital” is forcing providers to rethink the use of their clinical areas. The pandemic has accelerated technology and brought a new lens to the way healthcare centers operate to keep the patient at the center of care. We are using technology for parametric design to help with space programming and adjacencies but the conversation of incorporating new tech into healthcare design is just beginning.
Haley Driscoll, Principal
Technology is pushing providers to reevaluate the spaces they are currently using. A more conservative design strategy allows clients to harbor existing real estate to transform it into operational areas that better suit their needs. With virtual care in the spotlight, the temptation of increasing spaces to allow for greater social distancing, like larger waiting areas, will be replaced by finding more efficiencies through technology. Patients wait in their cars instead of waiting areas and are texted or called in when their appointment is ready to begin. The pandemic accelerated simple technology like FaceTime to be used as acceptable healthcare. Now that the genie is out of the bottle, we are going to see continued emphasis on efficient planning of physical environments to maximize available square footage for clinical care and reductions in areas where people congregate together.
Michele Cohen, Principal
In healthcare, the gap is closing between technology and privacy. Studies show more and more people are willing to share their data from devices like wearable technology with doctors providing it will improve their health. That shift is accelerating how healthcare spaces are designed with efficient tech in mind. Wellness centers and community hubs can now receive some of this data, freeing up space in traditional hospitals.
How has the emergence of the community hub shifted the design of healthcare?
Calum MacCalman, Director
The integration of healthcare and social care is expanding the capabilities of local community hubs and leading to more standalone facilities, specifically elective care. These specialist centers help take the burden off overcrowded hospitals and put the focus of care back into the community.
Nicole Morson, Senior Associate
The pandemic suddenly shifted all generations into a firm and expanded relationship with technology. Once the threat of the virus subsides, will our long absence of physical connection spur a new focus on in-person care? Healthcare is moving to where people are, in their homes with virtual care and in their community in the form of ambulatory wellness hubs. We predict that convenience will remain a paramount focus of how healthcare is provided to patients – but how much do patients prioritize in-person care? Will a physical connection give patients greater satisfaction in their interactions with healthcare professionals? We believe the impact of “skin hunger” in moments of personal health uncertainty will have a renewed value to patients and spur a contingent to seek in-person care and the comfort that human connection offers.
Feby Kuriakose, Project Manager
Those wellness hubs are vital to keeping communities safe and limiting the number of hospital visits in a system that is currently overwhelmed. Being able to design safe spaces that offer services like blood collection and plasma collection or kidney dialysis close to home helps keep everyone safe. We continue to design these types of spaces with successful use by community members
What does the future of healthcare look like beyond the traditional hospital?
Michele Cohen, Principal
The idea of “creating health” is taking flight with practices like Salutogenesis that focus on functional medicine and design can play a large role in that. We can design internal staircases to promote exercise, use light to replicate circadian rhythms and bring in natural sunlight and nature to incorporate biophilic design. This connection to nature is going to be vital to healthcare design for any size building in the future.
Frank Panici, Vice President
We are interested in the science of health and need to think beyond hospitals to consider every type of building that causes health. The collaboration with our clients is vital to being flexible in every situation and understanding how to get it right the first time. The emergence of satellite and ambulatory care means hospitals are trending toward essential services only. Designing those new hubs to handle more and increasing the efficiency of existing hospital space is going to continue in 2021.