Health care is the constant interface of a caregiver and patient, for the engagement of detailed and sometimes stressful communication within the virtual or built environment. Health care is heavily dependent on transforming patient data in order to streamline processes and improve care. By introducing the trend of “smart” or “artificial intelligence” technology, there is hope for less repetition and better patient/caregiver information. Artificial intelligence will do data management, analysis and predictions soon. Currently we interface by telemedicine, virtual reality and digital check-in kiosks, which allow for a quick process for patients. Exam rooms are being equipped with internet access to converse with patients about online medical information. Another trend with technological advances and decreased cost is associated with DNA sequencing, more hospitals are expanding the role of genomics by providing on-site labs. With health care moving toward the “smart” world, this creates a greater need for the designers of the built environment to understand the process each patient will experience when dealing with technology and being sent to different departments or type of services.
The patient needs consistent communication and continuity on their journey to provide a more satisfied experience. There is a current trend to provide concierge services to assist patients with technology, wayfinding, location of wellness areas, private waiting areas and small tasks that reduce patients’ stress levels. A trend that is in conjunction with the concierge service is to provide more hospitality, spalike, calm, neutral design in the waiting areas that create a sense of serenity. The patient functions on first impressions for professional competence, trust and connection to the caregiver. From a patient perspective, cleanliness is critical in the built environment. Therefore, selection of furnishings that are easy to clean with hospital-quality cleaners make a professional statement. There are metal frames, nonporous finishes and moisture impervious cushions with a new generation of vinyl fabrics to specify.
All materials will help in the cleaning of a 24/7 space. The use of materials that protect against spread of infection/diseases are part of the safety for patient treatment. Copper is naturally antimicrobial and is used to kill E. coli, influenza A virus, adenovirus and methicillinresistant staphylococcus aureus (MRSA). There is the use of glass, ceramic and steel surfaces coated in photo active pigments to kill micros when exposed to artificial or natural UV rays. Indigo lighting is a LED lighting that can help kill bacteria. These light bulbs create a chemical reaction that destroys the microbe’s cells. Indigo lighting limits the spread of airborne bacteria in the treatment or operating rooms. Along with the lighting, designers are implementing biophilic design, which embraces natural light, integrates views of nature and considers natural earth tones and artwork to assist in the healing process.
Transportation to and from “off campus” accommodations is a new trend that helps reduce stress when systems provide nearby recovery centers, outpatient services and patient residence. The patient residence is offered as a fully furnished apartment to assist in the care coordination. Not all patients need traditional care and the health care systems. Wellness centers are available and provide preventative care focusing on the body’s natural metabolic process, whereas traditional medicine focuses on the disease. Hospitals are joining in to provide support for community gyms, cooking classes and yoga studios to allow for more social interaction with patients.
The patient’s journey should be tracked carefully by the caregiver, virtual information and through the built environment to ensure no discord in flow through the process for treatment. The coordination of integrating all steps taken should enhance the patient experience and not hinder the treatment.