How Technology is Transforming Healthcare Design and Construction

The adoption of new technology is changing our daily routines, especially when it comes to health and wellness. While technology has been widely embraced in medical research and lab work, it’s only recently been fully integrated into the design and construction of medical facilities that focus on patient care. As healthcare providers try to increase efficiency without sacrificing the quality of care, patients are benefiting from spaces that are designed and constructed around their comfort and medical needs.

Traditionally, medical facilities and hospitals have been constructed like a box, with pieces of technology incorporated ad hoc instead of being integrated into the actual architecture of the space. The design was focused more on the functions of healthcare providers than on the overall patient experience. As well, large amounts of square footage were dedicated to aesthetics rather than function, such as large atriums with high ceilings. However, increased pressure to achieve profitability and limited staffing resources are causing healthcare providers to explore leaner building floorplans that seamlessly integrate technology.

Today, we are seeing smaller patient rooms with portals built directly into the walls, enabling patients to control their care, communication, and entertainment in a single place. Not only do these portal screens allow doctors to check in on patients without having to physically be in the room, but they also provide patients an opportunity to work with specialists from around the world through live video streaming and instant delivery of lab results and other critical patient data. As well, patients can control room temperatures, set the lights to desired levels, select dining options, communicate with nurses, access the Internet, play video games, watch movies, listen to music, or contact friends and family from a single portal.

A real-time location system (RTLS) is another form of technology that is being incorporated into the design of medical facilities. This type of technology, while,not new to the healthcare industry, is being used in new and innovative ways. Today, tracking systems are being incorporated earlier throughout the project life cycle and beyond to permanent installation within facilities. The tool can use location points to generate “heat maps” that follow where people travel and cluster, determining potential conflict points and bottleneck situations.

By using RTLS to better understand clinician/nurse workflows, the design aspects of the medical facility can be optimized to help improve overall productivity, resulting in an enhanced patient experience. This tool makes it possible to track and streamline resources and hospital staff—whether it be security personnel, housekeeping, or nursing staff—and affirms that each department or specialty is properly staffed, providing patients with the highest quality and most timely care.

Beyond blending technology into the design of medical spaces, there is also an increased focus on using technology during the construction phase to minimize patient disruptions. Skanska has taken a leading role in this endeavor by creating the inSite Monitor app to keep safety, comfort, and care as top priorities while construction is taking place near patient rooms.

One of the biggest benefits of the inSite Monitor is that it gives the hospital staff a certain level of control when construction impacts patients. Before starting the project, the head nurse and other key hospital staff members are provided with the app so the nursing staff may signal the construction team leader when dust, noise, or vibration levels interfere with patient comfort and care. When this occurs, the app signals construction team members to immediately stop work and address the notification before it becomes an issue.

Widespread adoption of technology makes it essential to integrate these tools into new or renovated medical facilities. By exploring the wide range of technology options with customers from the earliest stage of the project, experienced architects, engineers, and construction companies can help healthcare facilities fully maximize their potential to increase patient satisfaction and comfort without sacrificing the quality of care.

Eric Bunner, vice president of operations for Skanska, oversees the company’s Dallas operations.

Posted in Expert Opinions.