What Will Children's Hospitals Look Like In The Future?

10 September 2020

Hospital of the future is an organization that puts the patients and their experience at the forefront, maintains constant contact with them, focuses on the cooperation of medical staff with parents and patients, invests in organizational culture and cares for employees, implementing changes in space and processes, bringing them closer to the idea of “smart hospitals.” It is an innovation incubator that combines various fields – including non-medical ones.

Step 1: Before visiting the hospital

The stress associated with hospitalization starts even before visiting the hospital. How to prepare for the visit? Do I have all the necessary things and documents? What is going to happen in the hospital? These are just some of the questions that worry the parents of young patients. In an ideal world, the health care system would take care of both sides in terms of substance and psychology, providing parents and patients with convenient access to information and preparing doctors to work with the family of the affected child.

Step 2: Clinic

The hospital of the future supports the patient on arrival at the facility. Using a smartphone, parents can quickly check the available parking spaces at the hospital or use the integrated communication system from other parking lots. The waiting room at the hospital of the future will be adapted for patients of different ages. There will be a space with interactive walls and games using extended or virtual reality. They will allow patients to immerse themselves in “another world” for a while and forget about the pain and reasons for being in the clinic or hospital.

Simplification and digitalization of the registration process, which the patient will be able to start at home using the application, will significantly shorten the length of the visit to the clinic and lessen the burden on the administration staff. The medical staff, on the other hand, will gain valuable time for talking to the patient and examinations thanks to electronic medical records and the support of robots. Such duties as organizing data, providing bedding, monitoring medical supplies will be taken over by artificial intelligence systems.

Integrated IT systems noticeably improve the level of care and work comfort. Moreover, it is possible to make significant time savings, which allows more patients to be seen. The Children’s Bellevue Clinic and Surgery Center in Seattle monitors the efficiency of operating rooms, among other things.

In modern hospitals, patients and their caregivers do not get lost in the corridors and can easily find the right office or room. The Children’s Health Center has already implemented a system of signs and infographics placed on the “Metro” floors with stations assigned to different wards. In the future, hospitals will be equipped with an application featuring GPS navigation, and the key communication points will include interactive maps, as used today in shopping malls.

Step 3: Hospitalization

Once the diagnosis and treatment recommendations are completed, the family enters an entirely unknown and stressful place. The hospital of the future guides movement around the hospital in an accessible way. In Children’s Hospital Colorado, instructional videos have been made available on YouTube to make the first moments in the hospital easier for children and their parents. As the beginning of hospitalization also involves many procedures and documents, modern facilities will provide caregivers with support in the form of virtual assistants, such as KIDS MD used in Boston.

Innovations in the hospital of the future will work towards good relations and a pleasant atmosphere. Anything to make the little patients’ stay more enjoyable, and to include an element of fun in the course of unpleasant treatments. In modern facilities, children will wear smart wristbands collecting the most critical data, making it possible to forget about waking up at night for measurements such as temperature. Such a solution will also relieve pressure on the nursing staff, which will be able to save more time for direct interaction with patients.

The concept of human-centered design takes into account the needs, expectations, and concerns of patients

During procedures such as blood sampling or injections, children will make use of virtual reality. Thanks to VR goggles, they will put a protective shield on their shoulder during the game, which will affect their feelings during real-life activities.

For longer hospitalization, it is also worthwhile to provide education and contact with the patient’s peers. This will be made possible by a robot, which allows children to learn at a distance. It is placed in the classroom or school environment and controlled by an application on the phone or tablet. The child can see and hear what is happening in the classroom and take part in activities.

The hospital of the future is also a comfortable space for caregivers staying with children in the ward. This means that they have convenient access to both the private area (with kitchen, bathrooms, or laundry) and the office area (with equipment for remote work).

Successful treatment involves the cooperation of many specialists, which is why the hospital of the future also focuses on good organization and internal communication. This will require, for example, information boards, employee portals, chats, mail, or team meetings. The emergency departments located in the United States and Great Britain use a solution inspired by Formula 1 methods. When a patient arrives, each specialist sees to a designated area and performs one activity. The staff of the hospital of the future is provided the right conditions for work and development. Nationwide Children’s Hospital has implemented a program to prevent professional burnout and reduce stress for employees. It also offers individual and group support 24 hours a day.

Step 4: Return home

In the hospital of the future patients will, when returning home, receive complete information and access to tools and technological solutions that will support them in their further treatment. Further care at home will be supervised by a virtual medical assistant and the hospital’s remote-controlled medication intake system. Continued contact with the hospital and telemedical solutions will ensure the continuity of treatment, which in the case of growing children and changing needs is extremely valuable. Discharge from the hospital will involve the appropriate training of parents who, equipped with remote devices, will be able to continue treatment at home, and any doubts will be remotely consulted with a doctor or capable assistant.

Modern facilities will also provide comfortable contact with psychologists and support groups, which will help the family to find its place in the “post-hospital” reality, and thanks to extensive social media channels, it will connect patients and encourage them to maintain contact outside the hospital.