What will hospitals be like in 2035? Given the rate at which technology is revolutionizing the healthcare sector, says Mitch Morris, MD, an American oncologist with experience in healthcare administration, physicians today would barely recognize a hospital if they took a trip through time to 2035, just as healthcare professionals 20 or so years ago would if they walked into a hospital today.
As a result of many healthcare innovations over recent years, hospitals have been modernized to such an extent that pioneering new products and digital advances are helping to improve people’s lives far beyond what many had anticipated.With these next-generation advances in healthcare innovation, however, hospital efficiency becomes even more important. Applied technology that is caring, impactful and delivers meaningful benefits must both make a difference to people’s lives and work in tandem with budgetary concerns. That is the essence of a healthcare revolution.
The big challenge, therefore, is to meet the growing demands of and for care, and still keep health services solvent. One approach seeks to move away from silo models of service provision towards the development of well-integrated healthcare services. Sceptics, however, have observed that up to now efforts to do this have really involved little more than the transfer of resources from one silo to another.
But things are changing for the better and healthcare innovations that focuses on costs and efficiency have the ability to revolutionize the system.
For many years, acute care hospitals have struggled to keep up with the explosion in healthcare innovations and the data they carry. While some healthcare providers have leapfrogged using information and communications technology (ICT) to manage and monitor clinical data, they have been the exceptions rather than the rule. Within a decade such limitations based on ICT access will be distant memories.
Furthermore, the effective and efficient use of this data will help to reduce costs of service provision, to break down barriers between clinical specialties and service providers, to improve transparency for patients, and to deliver a more holistic patient experience. Inevitably, the slowest part of this change will be cultural. Despite the rapid pace of clinical advances, traditional clinical structures have been slow to evolve, but driven by the stick of budgetary expediency and the enticing carrot of exciting new ways of delivering improved services, healthcare innovation can inspire change.
If big data and cheaper ICT are going to be the engines of change, how will this be experienced on the ground, within hospitals? How will patients’ benefit and hospital efficiency be transformed? A number of trends are already emerging that will enable real-time collaboration between clinicians and patients to improve outcomes while at the same time lowering costs.
For instance, using high-tech procedures that integrate multiple tools and technologies, clinicians will treat complex problems in patient-oriented ways that reduce “competition” between existing clinical disciplines—for example, between cardiac surgeons and interventional cardiologists.
Healthcare innovations for telehealth capabilities will enable hospitals to discharge more patients, more quickly and to support recuperation in other settings, including their own homes. Active monitoring will ensure timely interventions, should they be necessary.
Using data to refine their focus, clinicians will be able to move away from an excessive “erring on the side of caution” in diagnosis and treatment towards a targeted approach. This will encompass everything from radiation exposure for imaging to minimally-invasive procedures.