According to United Nations estimates, the proportion of the world’s population aged over 60 will triple by the end of this century, to make up more than a third of all people, leading to a huge increase in chronic health conditions relating to old age. And the effects of ageing are likely to be exacerbated by the health problems that accompany increasing obesity, with a fifth of all people predicted to be obese by 2025. In the UK, for example, the number of over-65s with four illnesses is expected to more than double in 20 years to 2.5m people. Countering this, the rise of genomics, stem cell therapy and progress in immunology could limit the mortal threat from infectious diseases and cancer.
It is increasingly understood that the environment in which patients are treated and cared for is a contributing factor to the healing process. As such, patient-centred design is a key ingredient in a successful healthcare facility not only in terms of the physical space but also the virtual one. Patients armed with information about their conditions are already informed consumers of clinical care, rather than passive recipients, and they will increasingly want to access services on smart-phones and mobile devices. But the impact of technology will go far beyond simply providing mobile apps for patients to have basic interactions with doctors, or book appointments. The revolution will be driven by a combination of the widespread use of networked smart sensors, vastly increased computing power, ever better telecoms, improvements in robotics, and strides forward in artificial intelligence (AI), together with algorithmic computer decision-making.
AI-powered systems will be able to analyse data from sensors that provide continual or ‘on demand’ monitoring of a patient’s condition, while video conferencing will enable doctors to reach, diagnose and treat patients wherever they are. This means that an ever-larger proportion of medical care is likely to be provided by teams of experts all housed together in a technological hub. Meanwhile better surgical techniques will vastly limit the time even those undergoing serious procedures have to spend in hospital. Other factors will affect how these changes play out, however, including the continuing drive for efficiency and cost reduction, increasing bacterial resistance, and the need for resilience to climate change and future energy scarcity.
As hospitals evolve to include technological hubs, they will require the capacity to deal with huge amounts of data supporting diagnostic feedback from a range of real-time sources including wearable or digestible sensors.
See Our 10 Steps Below to Making your Healthcare Facility Fit for the Future
Excellence in future healthcare delivery will be enabled by flexible, adaptable buildings that are future-proofed by design.