Today I’m in Phoenix, Arizona, to keynote at what is for me a different kind of industry conference. Each year, I provide dozens of keynotes at industry conferences for healthcare providers and information technologists all over the world. But this one is special; special because this conference is about something every bit as important as information technology in health. This one is about patient well being and how to make our healthcare facilities more attuned to meeting the needs of patients and the clinicians who care for them.
More than 3000 hospital executives, facility planners, architects and engineers have gathered at the Phoenix Convention Center for the American Society for Healthcare Engineering (ASHE) 2009 International Conference and Exhibition on Health Facility Planning, Design and Construction (PDC). One of the highlights of the show is what is known as the green patient lab. The lab is a full patient room mockup located in the Exhibit Hall that demonstrates the best contemporary thinking about hospital room design, seamless technology integration, healing environments and green, renewable building materials.
I’m not an architect or an engineer, so why was I invited to keynote at PCD? I’m here to share information about the future of healthcare and medical practice and how computing, connectivity, the Web and information technology will impact how and where healthcare is delivered.
Visit any urban hospital and you are likely to see one or more construction cranes. It seems American hospitals are always expanding. I often joke about hospital CEO’s being afflicted with “crane envy”. If one or more cranes aren’t present on the hospital campus, they feel they’re not doing their job.
The truth is that billions of dollars are being spent every year building or expanding America’s hospitals. But are we building the right kinds of facilities to meet the future needs of patients and caregivers? We know that over the years a lot of what we do for patients has moved away from the acute care setting to free-standing ambulatory surgery centers, outpatient clinics, extended care facilities and even into the patient’s own home. We know that medical technology, genomic science, and other scientific breakthroughs will alter the way we practice medicine and perform procedures. It has been said that medical practice will move from being reactive and disease oriented to a model that is more predictive and preventive. So, if we are building the hospital of the future, does it still look and function like the hospital of today? I think not. We may not need all those coronary catheterization suites. We may not need the CCU. Operating rooms may be a place where there are more robots than surgeons. And even the patients in ICU are likely to be monitored by experts working in “satellite control” centers half a city or half a world away.
New facilities must also be built with present and future IT in mind. Not only must we consider IT network infrastructure of the future, but how will software, ubiquitous broadband, wireless, tele-monitoring, telemedicine, globalization, and the Net impact clinical workflow? How will facilities accommodate always-connected patients and family members? How will the patient’s digital lifestyle be integrated into our care facilities, and how might such technology help create “healing environments”? Will the walls come alive with images of nature? Will we be able to create holographic virtual environments of grandma’s house or a child’s own bedroom at the flip of a switch to ease a patient’s anxiety?
These are the kinds of questions we are exploring at PDC. And, that’s why I’m here in Phoenix enjoying yet another kind of “healing environment” far away from the mid-March snow and ice in Seattle.
Bill Crounse, MD Senior Director, Worldwide Health Microsoft Corporation