Technology continues to develop rapidly. We witness this in nearly all industries, and healthcare is no exception. Hospitals have evolved in the past. Therefore, it is reasonable to expect that hospitals will continue to evolve as a result of new technology and changing demands on the healthcare industry. Medicine and healthcare will advance drastically in the coming years. Although it is difficult to imagine exactly what advances will be made, current trends can give insight into what to expect. So, let’s consider the current and future trends to affect the future of hospitals.
Four Trends Affecting the Future of Hospitals
Outpatient vs. Inpatient Care
The healthcare industry has seen a continued decline in inpatients care as medical technology develops. In 1991, roughly 125 patients were admitted to the hospital per 1,000 patients seen. Today the average number of admitted patients is near 110. Inpatient care declining is almost certain to continue into the future. Healthcare analytics firm Sg2 projects that within five years outpatient volume will grow by 17% while inpatient volume will fall by 3%. The discrepancy between those percentages is due to the growing demand for healthcare services. However, it is worth noting that as procedures become less invasive and monitoring becomes easier, we will likely see fewer patients being admitted to hospitals.
Ann Macner, VP of reinventing care at Cone Health in Greensborough, N.C., suggests that hospitals are likely to partner, “with architects and builders to create a true patient-centered experience that is safe, effective and value-added.” Macner’s sentiments are echoed by many of her industry peers. Many hospitals are considering ways to improve the experience of patients and their families. While hospitals have traditionally felt clean, white, and sterile, industry leaders are looking to allow greater entertainment and comfort while also ensuring safety.
Telehealth is perhaps the healthcare trend that is most apparent. In an effort to improve healthcare accessibility and decrease costs, many hospitals are transitioning healthcare services online. Patients are able to communicate with their doctors in a variety of mediums based upon their needs and preference. Telehealth is already growing rapidly, but there are certain limitations that prevent its universal adoption. For example, wearable technology is improving medical testing and information gathering. The technology allows doctors to gain further insight into a patient’s health than was previously possible, yet many medical tests still cannot be made without a doctor’s physical presence.
The future of hospitals will involve virtual and augmented reality in operating rooms, smart patient rooms, doctor and nurse tablets. In addition, further advanced robotics will work together in a coordinated way to ensure constant attention for patients. Eventually, technology will be able to work together seamlessly. Communication between doctors, nurses, patients, and families will reach unprecedented levels as information is shared between technology platforms instantly. Patients will be able to record how they are feeling without the presence of a doctor or nurse. Healthcare providers will be able to check up on patients at any time and from anywhere in the hospital. Ultimately, patients will benefit from greater access and flexibility.
Although it is difficult to fully define what the future of hospitals will look like, it is exciting to consider the possibilities. Based on current trends, it is clear that the healthcare industry’s ultimate goal will be to limit the number of patients that are in the hospital at a given time. Between growing rates of outpatient visits and telehealth, doctors and patients will communicate in new ways. However, for patients who are admitted to the hospital, their experience will be primarily focused on comfort, access, and of course, care. One thing is for sure, hospitals will not look the same in the next 20 years as they do today.