7 Medical Trends You Should Know About
According to Gensler LA co-managing director Barbara Bouza, the medical field is now operating in a world where Walmart is considered one of the world's largest healthcare providers.
"It’s very similar to the way Airbnb has affected the hotel industry and Uber has done to the taxi industry," she tells Bisnow.
Walmart's rise is due to many of today's patients placing a greater focus on cost and choice, and being willing to pay more for greater quality, closer proximity or quicker service. There's also a greater focus on healthier, proactive lifestyles, with Millennials and other generations having greater access to healthier foods and wellness strategies and initiatives at workplaces, schools and airports. And, of course, there's evolving tech, making a healthy lifestyle and medical information easily accessible.
So how can next-gen medical facilities tap into the health-conscious and tech-savvy nature of today's patients and create a guest experience that will help them stand out from other alternatives, like Walmart and international "wellness resorts"? How can developers and builders tap into the human-centered approach to medical facilities that can make a doctor's appointment a pleasant experience?
Over the past few years, Bisnow partner Parker Brown has built dozens of medical facilities for UCLA Health Systems, Community Memorial Health Systems and the Southern California Orthopedic Institute. Here are seven things that they, as well as Barbara, believe you should know about the medical facility of the future.
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1. The Tech Backbone
It should really go without saying that tech is going to be important in future developments, but Barbara notes that tech is causing medical developers to "completely rethink every amenity and form of communication." For example, 90% of patients have some form of smart device they will use to look online to try to self-diagnose and see what they can do before seeing a medical professional. Some medical facilities are actually tapping into this phenomenon by providing stalls with iPads that allows patients to access that information or providing WiFi capabilities. This connectivity can also help doctors have quick access to research before deciding on a course of action.
A more radical idea is providing doctors with "teleconferencing rooms," where they can consult with patients via Skype.
"There’s actually some research being done right now which asks whether we would see the same outcome if the patient meets face-to-face with the doctor or if they have the same conversation remotely," Barbara says. "It allows us to have this conversation in the privacy of our own home. It also recognizes that people are different. Some people need that face-to-face interaction, while others might be OK with walking around and having this conversation on their cellphone.”
But Barbara tells us that security comes with three huge caveats. First, with all these patient files needing to be stored electronically, this increases technology needs and server rooms. But keeping those servers secure, private and in accordance with HIPAA regulations also needs to be heavily considered. Finally, in order to remain "next-gen," a smart medical facility needs to be constantly make sure their tech is cutting-edge, which can be a costly challenge.
“You don’t want to build a facility that’s going to be obsolete," Barbara warns. "Traditionally, the world of healthcare has not worked very fast, in terms of technologies and file management. So we have to find ways to leapfrog that.”
2. A "Waiting Room" in Name Only
One of the biggest focuses for changing medical facilities is the reimagining of the waiting room. Barbara says designers are trying to create a space that "captures that time" and even offers patients and visitors the potential to shop, get coffee, walk and whatever else they would need to take the edge (and boredom) out of the visit. When designing the Martin Luther King Medical Center campus master plan in LA, for example, Barbara and Gensler provided an integrated concept of a "wellness spine."
Parker Brown partner John Parker agrees, saying that getting rid of the atmosphere of "a cattle call in a crowded, uncomfortable room" creates an enjoyable experience that not only improves patient health and happiness, but can make a patient "want to come back to the doctor’s office for follow-ups and regular check-ups."
3. Private Exam and Consulting Rooms
Privacy is a main pillar of medicine, and there are many times where a conversation between a doctor and the patient or the patient's family is just not appropriate out in the waiting room. That's why many medical facilities are evolving to create private, intimate settings where you can connect with others, or bringing patients back to the private exam rooms as soon as possible, to the point where they're doing some of the vitals in there.
"It really simplifies the process and a lot of conversations within that room," Barbara says.
4. Collaboration for Nurses and Physicians
In addition to private offices and teleconferencing rooms, physicians and nurses are also looking for well-lit, well-organized areas where they can take a breather and collaborate. With modular furniture, Barbara says that these areas can push collaboration and help medical staff to do their best work.
"It's a workplace environment," Barbara says, "so you have to think about how they have their focus work, they collaborate, they need to learn, so how do you give them that flexibility? We’re seeing a lot more that allows those opportunities to evolve over time. Also, because the technology is so mobile, you have to build something that can work around that and support that.”
5. Simple, Welcoming Campuses
The largest and most complex aspect of a medical facility is the campus or facility itself. From the time a patient or visitor gets out of their car to the time they check out, everything needs to be accessible and engaging. Barbara gives us the example of Gensler's innovative wayfinding work with Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, renowned for its top-of-the-line healthcare and work, but infamous for its complex campus that's a challenge to negotiate. After significant research, Barbara and Gensler found that leveraging signage, spaces and landmarks (i.e. a Starbucks) could create a positive patient experience.
"You have to think about how you can leverage natural human behavior," she says. "You have to have an understanding of orientation and natural light."
Barbara says that even these simple changes—like natural light and open and inviting staircases—can make all the difference in creating a campus or building that is welcoming.
John adds that larger facilities and campuses can create pleasant walk paths that can keep staff healthy, productive and even thinking creatively.
6. Managing Mental Health
The recent string of controversies and debate surrounding mental healthcare in the US has lead to several code and law changes around mental health and treatment.
"The whole approach of working with mental health is being re-evaluated," Barbara notes.
Despite the fact that it could be a hugely beneficial addition, however, she says many medical facilities aren't aware or haven't kept track of these changes. A fully equipped and forward-thinking medical health space can not only a serve a desperate need, but can be a huge draw.
7. Preparing for the Senior Tsunamis
Significant and dynamic senior living and care programs can make a facility the place to be for two massive demographics. Barbara points out that there is a huge focus on longer life spans and an aging population that will place a huge strain on medical facilities in the upcoming decades. Not only is there a massive wave of Baby Boomers to deal with—10,000 of whom turn 65 every day—but also today's youth, who may live a century or longer.