The future of healthcare is an ever-evolving concept, shaped by technological advancements, societal shifts, and global events. As central pillars of healthcare delivery, hospitals must adapt to these changes to continue providing high-quality care. In this article, we will explore five crucial trends that will transform the hospital of the future and impact the way healthcare is delivered.
- The Shift of the Point of Care (POC) Towards Homes
Traditionally, the Point of Care (POC) refers to the physical location within a healthcare facility where care is provided, such as a patient’s bedside in a hospital. However, recent years have witnessed a significant shift in the definition of POC. Thanks to remote care and telehealth services, healthcare is now delivered where patients are most comfortable – in their own homes.
This transformation has given rise to the concept of “virtual wards.” Virtual wards utilize remote monitoring health tools, allowing patients to be monitored and receive healthcare recommendations in real time. Healthcare professionals can maintain two-way communication with patients, enabling prompt intervention if any signs of deterioration are detected. Additionally, trained professionals can perform certain medical procedures, like intravenous therapies, at the patient’s home.
This approach has been successfully piloted in various countries, including the U.K., U.S., Singapore, and Australia. As virtual wards become more commonplace in the future, hospitals must adapt to support this new modality of care delivery.
- Designing Specific Spaces for Remote Care Consultations
The expansion of remote care isn’t limited to virtual wards; it also extends to outpatient consultations. McKinsey predicts that, in the future, approximately 25% of outpatient services could be conducted through telemedicine.
To accommodate this change, hospitals need to redesign clinical spaces. These redesigned spaces should include rooms dedicated to virtual consultations and remote care. These rooms should feature user-friendly sound and lighting control, as well as dual screens for simultaneous interaction with the patient and access to their medical records.
Many doctors emphasize the importance of creating a conducive environment for remote care, ensuring that both patients and healthcare professionals have a seamless experience.
- From Hand-Written Notes to Voice-to-Text
Within hospitals, the adoption of new technologies that facilitate the tasks of medical professionals is crucial. Electronic health record (EHR) systems have become common in healthcare settings, but they can be time-consuming and hinder the efficiency of physicians who must manually enter data.
Voice-to-text technology offers a promising alternative. This technology uses voice recognition systems to listen to and transcribe patient-doctor interactions, eliminating the need for manual data entry. Companies like Nuance and 3M offer voice recognition services that integrate clinical notes directly into EHRs. Augmedix’s Notebuilder software employs speech recognition and natural language processing to extract clinical data from doctor-patient conversations and transfer it to EHRs.
By reducing the time spent on data entry, physicians can allocate more time to patient care, ultimately improving the patient experience.
- A.I. in Decision-Making
Artificial intelligence (A.I.) is poised to play a pivotal role in the hospital of the future. A.I. has the potential to assist in various diagnostic processes, such as identifying conditions and interpreting medical data. A.I.-powered tools can sift through vast amounts of data from electronic health records and radiological scans, detecting patterns and providing recommendations.
This technology can serve as a valuable assistant to healthcare professionals, helping them make more informed decisions and improving patient outcomes. However, for A.I. to be integrated effectively into healthcare delivery, hospitals need to be prepared. This includes establishing the necessary cloud computing infrastructure and ensuring that medical staff are well-versed in A.I. technology and its practical applications.
- Cybersecurity and Protecting Patient Data
As healthcare becomes increasingly digitized, hospitals must address the associated cybersecurity risks. Cyberattacks pose a significant threat to patient data and the smooth operation of healthcare services. Hospitals should implement robust cybersecurity protocols, educate and train staff to identify and counter malicious activities and employ anti-virus and anti-ransomware protection.
Outdated software and systems represent a potential vulnerability, as demonstrated by the WannaCry cyberattack on NHS institutions in 2017. Therefore, keeping the software and operating systems up to date is essential.
In addition to technical measures, hospitals must ensure that patient data is handled transparently and responsibly, especially as A.I. tools become more integrated into healthcare. Collaboration with technology companies to develop A.I. algorithms may involve using patient data, but patients should be informed and consent to such use.
To address privacy concerns, decentralized federated learning can be employed as an alternative to centralizing patient data. This approach has shown promise in maintaining data privacy while enabling A.I. development.
The hospital of the future will be a vastly different healthcare institution from what we know today. It will adapt to the changing landscape of healthcare delivery by embracing remote care, harnessing new technologies, and prioritizing patient data security and privacy. These five trends, encompassing the shift of the POC towards homes, spaces for remote care consultations, voice-to-text technology, A.I. in decision-making, and robust cybersecurity measures, will shape the future of hospitals and ensure that they continue to provide exceptional care to patients. Hospitals must evolve to remain at the forefront of healthcare innovation, ultimately enhancing the overall patient experience and outcomes.
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