As the healthcare industry continues to shift from volume to value, providers are under mounting pressure to cut costs and deliver higher-quality care. This becomes even more challenging as the population ages, healthcare needs increase and the healthcare labor market gets tighter. In addition, knowledgeable consumers are driving demand for even more personalized care and a better patient experience.
To meet these demands, savvy healthcare organizations are rethinking their traditional processes, approaches and even design of their facilities. As new methods bring success, the healthcare industry will continue to evolve—with its future likely to look much different from its past. Here are some of the trends expected to change the face of healthcare in the near future.
When Nashville-based TriStar Centennial Medical Center designed its Advanced Joint Replacement Institute, leaders were especially focused on making the “hospital within a hospital” a comfortable, calming environment for patients, families and staff. “Creating a space that feels or appears more like a hotel or spa, rather than a hospital, makes for a pleasant experience for all involved,” says Jeffrey Hodrick, M.D., orthopedic surgeon at TriStar Centennial and HealthTrust Physician Advisor.
The focus of providing a relaxing experience while ensuring more traditional creature comforts is becoming increasingly important in attracting and keeping patients. A 2010 study conducted at the University of California showed that hotel-like amenities, such as chef-prepared food and beautifully designed surroundings, can increase patient demand for a hospital’s services by more than 38 percent, even more than clinical quality. And while bringing more patients in the door is critical for a hospital’s bottom line, that’s not the only result. Those modern amenities have also shown a correlation to improving patient outcomes.
For example, when one of two McGill University hospitals in Montreal, Canada, switched from shared rooms in its intensive care unit (ICU) to all private ICU rooms, the hospital’s rate of bacterial infection decreased by more than 50 percent, according to the Journal of the American Medical Association. In addition, average patient lengths of stay in the ICU decreased by 10 percent.
A groundbreaking 1984 study by Roger Ulrich, a visiting professor at the Center for Healthcare Architecture at Chalmers University of Technology in Sweden, showed that postoperative patients with “tree views” experienced faster recovery times and needed less pain medicine than those with views of the walls. Over the years, as other studies have shown that proximity to nature or natural views can contribute to positive health outcomes, more healthcare facilities are incorporating gardens or windows with views of nature. Indoor atriums, rooftop gardens and even simulated outdoor views, such as replica window “views” of a scene in nature, are becoming increasingly common in hospital environments.
HSHS St. Mary’s Hospital Medical Center in Green Bay, Wisconsin, has several gardens on site, including a 4,000-square-foot healing garden near the hospital’s main lobby, a 20,000-square-foot rooftop garden, an infusion garden, a prayer garden and a vegetable garden.
“The impact of the gardens is immeasurable,” says Daniel Rocheleau, campus and sustainability facilitator for HSHS Eastern Wisconsin Division. “Patients, family members, staff and even the general public use the gardens daily as a place of sanctuary to help them relax and reduce stress from illness or job-related functions.”
In addition to their healing power, the gardens also enrich the hospital environment, replacing lost habitats for wildlife such as birds, rabbits and squirrels, reducing thermal heating from surrounding concrete areas, and absorbing rainwater to reduce the amount of runoff entering municipal stormwater facilities, Rocheleau adds. “Whether we look at gardens for their environmental effect or for personal health, they have a profound impact on our everyday lives.”
Virtual Care Options
With a shortage of qualified healthcare professionals and a need to cut healthcare costs, the demand is growing for virtual care options. These options utilize technologies such as video, mobile apps, text messaging, sensors and social platforms to deliver health services, independent of time or location.
For instance, a number of hospitals are installing self-service kiosks, where patients can check themselves in, respond to intake questions, and even pay their co-pays or bills. At HCA’s Clear Lake Regional Medical Center in Webster, Texas, patients who visit the emergency room can check in with a self-service kiosk by scanning an ID or credit card, or entering their information manually. The kiosks have improved service by eliminating the paper check-in process for emergency room visitors, offering two language options, better managing information and accurately capturing patient arrival times.
Similarly, to reduce patient wait times and optimize electronic health record (EHR) data integration, Memorial Hermann Health System in Houston allows patients to check in online before arriving at any one of its six urgent care clinics. According to a recent article in Internet Health Management, when patients check in online, they can see how many people are currently in line ahead of them and select a specific time to be seen.
Hybrid Operating Rooms
Though minimally invasive surgery isn’t new—its techniques have been in use since the 1990s—advancements in technology continue to result in a better patient experience and less hospital time. Patient outcomes have also been improved with technologies that enable smaller cuts, less pain and less trauma to the muscles, tissue and nerves. One of those technological advancements is the development of hybrid operating rooms, which combine surgery and imaging systems. Increasingly, these new facilities will help clinicians replace conventional, more traumatic surgery with minimally invasive surgery.
Though the new Advanced Joint Replacement Institute at TriStar Centennial Medical Center opened in 2018, its design process started about four years prior “with all the major stakeholders conceptualizing what a patient-focused joint replacement hospital could be,” Hodrick says. “We included surgeons, nurses, anesthesia, environmental services and transport personnel in the discussion and design meetings. There was tremendous value in hearing their ideas and incorporating them into the finished product.”
The new institute allows for the complete care of the patient, from arrival to recovery, to occur in one centralized location. “This improves the experience of not only the patient, but also of the caregivers,” Hodrick adds. “The family waiting room serves as a quiet, comfortable environment while offering modern amenities such as a coffee bar and charging stations throughout the space.”
In addition, the waiting room includes state-of-the-art patient tracking technology that functions similarly to a flight board at an airport. With this technology, patients’ family members and loved ones are updated about where the patient is as he or she moves through the surgical process.
Each of the large operating rooms is fully equipped with the latest in X-ray and robotic equipment. The operating theaters also include windows, “which offer the advantage of natural light as well as spectacular views of the Nashville skyline,” Hodrick says.
Professionals in the central sterilization department no longer work in the basement—they now work in a dedicated, windowed space right in the OR suite. And, the patient experience is improved with headphones as well as light dimming and soothing imagery that happen automatically as a patient enters the OR.
As healthcare moves into the future, Hodrick believes the industry will continue to see more technologies incorporated into the patient care space. “This could be in the form of robotics in the OR, or highly personalized patient experience amenities while on the hospital floor,” he says.
But even as healthcare delivery models change and evolve, strengthening the relationship between the provider and the patient will always be the first priority, Hodrick says.
“We must find a way to keep that relationship at the center of the discussion while we strive to improve outcomes and efficiency of care,” he adds. “Patient experience and satisfaction is a powerful driver of patient referrals. Our hope is that providing the absolute best patient-focused environment, while also offering the most experienced and talented joint surgeons, will lead to sustained success. I believe the administration at any hospital can see the value in that.”