Carsten Niemeyer: Increasing use of technology and digitisation will change the purpose of hospitals
Senior Project Manager at WSP in Germany
What are the main trends currently challenging healthcare in Germany?
Our ageing population will bring about a marked change in Germany’s healthcare system. Between 2020 and 2035, the baby boomers will retire, resulting in a steep increase in the number of patients and in nursing care for the elderly. At the same time there will be less people of working age to finance the country’s rising healthcare costs.
The number of skilled workers will also drop during this period, and with insufficient doctors and nursing staff available to the market, wages will rise. These constraints will drive hospitals into even greater efficiencies in the way their staff are deployed.
Efficiency of hospital processes must be increased through further digitising, automating and networking treatment and care processes. Today’s hospitals must be designed to meet these future requirements if they are to continue to afford providing individual and needs-based care for their patients.
What are the main drivers that are changing healthcare delivery?
Increasing use of technology and digitisation throughout our hospitals will change the processes and thus the purpose of hospitals, as well as job descriptions for health care workers and the relationship between patients and doctors.
Medical technology continues to advance to minimise invasive surgery, with the use of robotics to avoid major interventions through the miniaturisation of devices. Procedures such as these are supported by ever better imaging methods whose evaluation by algorithms and AI is only just beginning.
Logistics processes for consumer goods and medical technology will be controlled increasingly by the IoT to improve utilisation rates and allow more demand-orientated purchasing, storing and distribution of consumer goods.
Wearable technologies will allow the monitoring of patients’ health even after they have left the clinic. Data transmitted by ‘smart’ devices and connected medical devices (CMD) will allow doctors to remotely treat patients in a different location.
There will be increasing human-machine interaction on more and more levels between doctors, staff and machines and also between patients and machines.
All of the above will have considerable impact on work routines in space and time, and thus on the technical hospital infrastructure. We are faced with the task of developing design concepts for hospitals to support and facilitate these changes.
What aspect of your role in healthcare do you find most rewarding?
I’m very proud to be able to contribute towards improving the quality and affordability of future health care. In addition to the social aspects I enjoy working on technically and organisationally complex projects, and large clinics usually fall into this category.
If you were a piece of medical equipment what would you be?
I would like to be an old-fashioned stethoscope, because for me it symbolises the human connection between doctor and patient, which you don’t get with a Magnetic resonance imaging unit (MRT).
If you had a super power what would it be?
I’d love to have the super power of ‘The Flash’. He could move almost as fast as the speed of light, which gained him almost unlimited time compared with normal people. It would allow me to go into the greatest depth with all kinds of topics.
What job would you choose to do in a hospital?
I would like to be an Operating Room Manager as I’ve always been impressed by the way they manage patients and staff in terms of time and cost pressures.
With 15 years of experience as an architect in planning, tendering and site management, Carsten is a division manager, focusing on project management. He has led a wide range of healthcare projects, including the university hospitals of Cologne, Düsseldorf and Aachen. His teams are responsible for delivering structural and building technologies/energy services on facilities including laboratories, clinical buildings, transportation, technical infrastructure and renovations.