For centuries, scientists have been trying to envision the future of hospitals. Following the recent shift towards digital health technologies and the adoption of remote care approaches, in part precipitated by the COVID-19 pandemic, it is only natural for one to wonder how these developments will impact those healthcare institutions. What can we expect from them in the future? Or will there be hospitals altogether in a decade’s time?
The short answer is yes, physical institutions will still be part of the future of healthcare. However, their roles will be significantly different from what they currently are. They will integrate new elements of design, accommodate digital health technologies and become specialised centres for invasive procedures, acute care and disease prevention. In tandem, a significant portion of care will be offloaded outside of the confines of hospitals and healthcare professionals will need to adopt new roles for this purpose.
In order to dive into the trends shaping up this future and the required elements for hospitals to be future-ready, The Medical Futurist has published a new e-book titled A Guide To The Future Of Hospitals. Composed of seven chapters and including input from industry experts, this e-book aims to equip policymakers, healthcare professionals and digital health businesses with adequate insights to prepare for the future of hospitals.
To provide a glimpse of what to expect from our new publication, this article explores five trends that will help shape the hospital of the future. We go into more details in our e-book and we would encourage you to discover more by purchasing a copy of The Guide To The Future Of Hospitals.
1. The shift of the POC towards homes
The point-of-care (POC) refers to the location where care is delivered. Traditionally, this referred to the patient’s bedside in a healthcare facility. But as recent years have highlighted, the POC extends beyond hospital walls to include where the patients themselves are, thanks to remote care and telehealth services.
This means that patients can now be monitored and receive healthcare recommendations from the comfort of their homes. This has spurred the new concept of ‘virtual wards’.
Virtual wards provide support to patients with remote monitoring and treatment in their own homes by means of remote monitoring health tools. These provide real-time monitoring which, combined with two-way communication, allows patients to be in touch with healthcare professionals. The latter can subsequently provide prompt intervention if they identify signs of deterioration. Procedures such as intravenous therapies that require trained professionals are performed by a visiting nurse.
Such approaches have already been piloted in countries like the U.K, U.S, Singapore and Australia. As they become more common in the future, hospitals have to be adequately equipped and designed to support such a modality of care delivery.
2. Designing specific spaces for remote care consultations
Virtual wards aren’t the only approach that will make use of remote care but a significant proportion of outpatient consultations will also be handled in this manner. McKinsey forecasts that, in the future, 25% of outpatient services could be conducted through telemedicine.
Such an approach can help diminish the rate of unnecessary visits while improving the patient experience. As such, hospitals have to be designed to handle such methods of care delivery.
Clinical spaces will need rethinking to accommodate rooms dedicated to virtual consultations and remote care. These will include user-friendly sound and lighting control, with dual screens to simultaneously converse with the patient and access to their medical records,” Dr Diana Anderson told The Medical Futurist.
3. From hand-written notes to voice-to-text
Within hospitals, new technologies that facilitate the tasks of medical professionals will need to be adopted. While most hospitals currently rely on electronic health record (EHR) systems, these might be impeding physicians from working more efficiently. They spend a considerable amount of time entering data into EHRs, leaving them with less time to spend with their patients. Others even consider EHRs as their number one challenge.
A promising alternative to manually inputting data into EHRs is voice-to-text technology. It operates via a voice recognition system that listens in and transcribes patient-doctor visits without requiring physical input.
Some companies have already developed such solutions that are ready to be deployed in hospitals. Nuance and 3M also offer voice recognition services that create clinical notes that integrate into EHRs. Augmedix’s Notebuilder software uses speech recognition and natural language processing to extract clinical data from doctor-patient conversations. The comprehensive medical notes generated are subsequently transferred to the patient’s EHR.
By slashing the need to manually type into EHRs, physicians will be able to spend more time with their patients and provide medical attention.
4. A.I. in decision-making
Another technology with significant potential to enhance the functioning of hospitals is artificial intelligence (A.I.). Its contribution ranges from reducing alarm fatigue through triaging to clinical decision-making.
A.I. can indeed provide assistance in a multitude of diagnostic processes. Such software can, for instance, provide pointers from medical data to help clinicians identify conditions such as ADHD and sleep disorders and quantify coronary artery calcification.
Essentially, A.I.-powered tools can become the doctor’s new assistant that can crunch through volumes of data from their EHRs and radiological scans. They can then detect patterns and suspicious signs, and provide recommendations. Physicians can subsequently interpret those recommendations and determine the optimal clinical route for the patient.
A.I. has a vast amount of potential in healthcare and as it becomes integral to care delivery, hospitals should be able to accommodate them. Cloud computing infrastructure could be such a means to make healthcare facilities A.I.-ready, but the medical staff should also get acquainted with the technology and its realistic potential.
5. Cybersecurity and how hospitals can keep patients’ data safe
With the increased digitisation of healthcare, healthcare establishments will need to acknowledge the accompanying cybersecurity risks. Cyberattacks, which experienced a rise at the start of the COVID-19 outbreak, can compromise sensitive patient data as well as force the cancellation of crucial services such as surgeries and radiology exams.
Hospitals should thus set up proper safeguarding protocols and approaches against cybercrimes. They can educate and train staff to identify and counter activities of malicious third parties which often exploit human psychology.
Regarding the technical aspect, anti-virus and anti-ransomware protection should be employed; and operating systems and software applications should be updated. Outdated software was in fact behind the leading cause of the infamous WannaCry cyberattack on 61 NHS institutions in 2017.
On top of these cybersecurity concerns, hospitals will need to ensure that patients’ data are transparently handled. As they will increasingly employ A.I. tools, hospitals will need to use patient data to train the algorithms, often while collaborating with Big Tech companies. However, patients might not be explicitly informed of such uses of their data. The collaboration between Google’s DeepMind A.I. unit and the Royal Free London NHS Trust exemplifies this. In the latter case, certain healthcare-related details of some 1.6 million patients were shared without properly informing patients of such use.
While there is essentially no effective A.I. without patient data to train them on, privacy-focused training methods could be adopted. One such approach is decentralised federated learning, which has been shown to perform comparably to other centralised models to deliver quality and reliable performance.
Hospitals will thus need to ensure that patients’ data are handled responsibly and transparently; in particular to foster a trusting relationship between patients, hospitals and developers for effective digital health adoption.
While these five trends provide an indication as to how the hospital in the future will operate, there are many more factors that come into play. These range from specific design elements through the impact of tech giants to the new role of healthcare professionals. We provide in-depth analyses regarding how these elements factor in the functioning of the hospital of the future and we invite you to discover them in detail in our new e-book The Future Of Hospitals, The Hospitals Of The Future.
Written by Dr. Bertalan Meskó & Dr. Pranavsingh Dhunnoo
The post 5 Trends That Will Determine The Hospital From The Future appeared first on The Medical Futurist.