We are moving rapidly from intermittent, reactive healthcare to continuous and proactive healthcare with the patient, not only at the centre of their own care but, as active participants of its delivery.
Soon, the familiar concept of outpatient clinics for routine appointments and monitoring may be precluded, as AI and digital technologies pave the way for home management of many conditions:
Smart technology precludes invasive procedures such as endoscopy by the use of digestible sensors, and wearable devices monitor vitals and can be programmed to feedback to managing clinicians erratic heart rate, high blood pressure or when blood glucose levels are too low.
Clinical experts can connect with patients at home via a screen enabling the patient to print out a treatment plan, a prescription and, in some cases, 3D print drugs following their one-stop-shop diagnosis. This is better for the patient, a great use of resources and a step forward to help patients self-manage long-term conditions. But what does this mean for our built environment?
If we continue to plan hospitals the way we always have, we will stifle innovation and hamper clinical progress. But if we truly put clinical excellence at the heart of what we do we need to develop buildings that offer the flexibility to embrace the rapidly changing face of healthcare delivery.
By designing for the inevitable changes at the outset, we can develop robust structures using a steel grid and lightweight panels that will enable easy, cost effective re-purposing of space. This will enable us to respond more quickly so, although outpatient clinics may become of the past, the space can be repurposed cost-effectively to meet the next new challenges and demands in health and ensure that our buildings, far from hampering progress, ensure our services remain clinically excellent, patient centric and future ready.