As the news shows us, hospitals will have to reinvent themselves to face economic problems, but also to improve care and treatment for an aging population. The old model, where all medical services were under one roof, no longer seems to be working in their favor.
Recent constructions have taken a different approach, with the patient walking into “health cities”, where hospital services receive a human face. The “Hospitacité” project in Brussels is a good example of this. Defined by its planners as an urban project, the future Belgian hospital, planned for 2025, will bring together several medical centers on a campus linked to the city by pedestrian bridges and even the metro.
The hospital of the future will be characterized by new architectural trends and will be decidedly “smart” and will focus on the welfare of patients.
Hospitals of the future as places to live
Recent architectural projects for hospitals envisage moving from a single building to a constellation of independent units. This architectural trend, known as the “layer approach”, reins each building as a clearly defined unit with its own lifespan and ability to adapt more quickly to change.
“In this approach, buildings built on the same hospital site have separate life cycles so that they can be transformed independently over time,” explains François Langevin, professor, and biomedical engineer, in an article in The Conversation.
Each building would offer a small but specialized and efficient range of services. The McKinsey & Company consulting firm envisages a hospital campus where some clinics would be responsible for outpatient care while others would be dedicated to rehabilitation. Technical services that do not accept patients or their families, such as laundry or medical-technical platforms, could be built a little further away. The “smart” hospital, as the center of this cluster, would focus only on emergencies, the most severe traumas, the most sensitive operations, and the most serious complications.
According to the “layer approach”, patients would be cared for in an environment that would be redesigned for their well-being. Built close to residential areas and equipped with green spaces, the “Healthy Cities” will also not only be places where patients are cared for, but where they could also live.
Increasingly sensitive personal data
Besides the patient himself, his personal data are also the focus of the “smart” hospital. The decentralization of services requires a networked IT system in which highly sensitive health data is exchanged between structures.
Simple tests, such as blood pressure or temperature measurements with connected devices, can improve patient well-being and save the doctor time, but also increase the amount of personal data. With the HIPA legislation, the collection, use, storage and protection of patients’ personal data will be important issues for tomorrow’s hospitals.
The change is also philosophical. As the world’s population ages, it is no longer a matter of caring for patients, but of maintaining the health of patients for as long as possible, focusing on prevention, rehabilitation, and re-education. Tomorrow’s hospital will have a different model from the one we know today. It remains to be seen however whether this new system will live up to its promises, only time will tell.