How Data Impacts Healthcare Architecture and Beyond

Check the wrists of those around you, and you’ll find biosensor tracking devices gathering data on sleep patterns and step counts. Patient-generated health data (PGHD) via wearables is off the charts.

Additionally, tech accessories continue to be designed to integrate with iOS and other major operating systems to expand the biotracking capabilities of our wearables, including glucose meters, hearing aids, blood pressure monitors, heart rate monitors, EKGs and health thermometers. Another area that data is quickly infiltrating, one that many don’t take into account: Healthcare architecture.

It’s Not the Data, It’s What You Do with It

Healthcare, indeed, has the potential to become increasingly predictive, personalized, preventive and participatory. But, what are we doing with the wealth of this personal health data? Some providers are considering how to integrate PGHD into their electronic health records for bilateral data input; after all, patients themselves are the best sources for continuous data.

Wellness is Where We Learn, Work, Heal and Play

At a different scale, what can we learn about fostering wellness by understanding the data from buildings? We live much of our lives learning, working, healing and playing within the built environment. Today’s buildings are equipped with the internet of things, including sensors, controllers, devices, and interoperable objects, each generating a wealth of data that can tell us a great deal about our behavior inside the built environment.

One recent example: an outpatient building built out with activity sensors. It can collect utilization data from exam rooms, staff work areas, consult rooms, conference rooms, registration kiosks, and waiting rooms. Other important data collectors like IT logs, cameras and voice assistants give us key insights into quantities, qualities, time, and space.

What does this data mean for fostering wellness? Wellness, according to the National Wellness Institute, has six dimensions: occupational, emotional, physical, social, intellectual, and spiritual. And, every building can affect your wellness in these dimensions. With activity sensor data alone, we gain wisdom on collaboration opportunities and social connectivity through movement preferences and presence time data. Additional data on acoustics and temperature can afford us wisdom on physical comfort. This data, if keenly analyzed and considered, will change how we program, operationally plan and design architecture in the future to improve the overall health of buildings.

Preparing for the Analytics Tsunami

Architects are inherently problem solvers, collecting data to inform design solutions through a combined artistic and scientific approach. In the past, we have relied on perceived patterns and intuition in the face of lacking data or as a result of slow research. Well, data is certainly no longer lacking, and research conclusions are accelerating alongside it. Big Data is the new frontier in architecture and design.

Research is a priority at Perkins+Will, especially as it relates to the design processes of the future. One of our 10 research labs, the Input/Output lab, is preparing us for the tidal wave of big data coming from physical buildings. I/O is focused on developing and integrating tools that expand the design and delivery process by harnessing powerful machine cognition. This story is far from over.

Ashley Dias is a senior associate at Perkins+Will.

Posted in Expert Opinions.