Competition for patients spurs tech, design advancement

As hospitals compete for patients, new technology and design features will overhaul the nature of patient-hospital interaction, according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

Not only will new medications and surgical techniques reduce lengths of stay, methods like vidchat conversations and smartphone photos will replace many patient visits and personal data will play a bigger role in providers' decision-making, according to the article.

Trends in the healthcare industry are so unpredictable (and changeable) that it doesn't make sense to try to plan more than a few years ahead, Jeffrey Bauer, Ph.D., a Chicago health futurist and medical economist, told the Post-Gazette, but potential benefits from video chatting and less invasive surgical procedures could lessen overcrowding in waiting rooms and smaller hospitals. These, in turn, could reduce exposure to diseases and lower fees. "There's simply no need for 800-bed behemoths," Bauer said. "[Hospitals will] be able to treat the same number of patients with half the beds."

Hospital design is also shifting from a focus on doctors and nurses' needs to that of patients, Chu Foxlin of TK&A Architects, told the publication. Now that consumers have more resources and provider options, many hospitals tailor their designs to compete for patients. They also adapt their designs to reduce anxiety and promote health for patients who may spend months in the hospital, which is especially important in children's hospitals, according to the article.

"Some of these kids return repeatedly on an annual basis for their entire lives. You have to be sensitive to all of that," said Allen Kolkowitz, who was part of the design team for the Charlotte R. Bloomberg Children's Center at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore.

Some hospitals also try to reduce disruptions by phasing out intercoms, enlarging windows, and building gardens, lounges and cafes, Foxlin said. In some cases, they also give patients more control over their immediate surroundings, like room temperature, lights and window shades.

Not only is hospital design important for patient health, it can also affect the health of its community, FierceHealthcare previously reported.

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