A better environment is not necessarily more expensive it is about how prudently the precious resources of time and money are spent.

There is often reluctance on the part of architects to be involved with hospital design, perhaps because they are wary of the complexity of the task, the pitfalls, and a lack of specialist knowledge. Admittedly, hospitals are obviously different from other buildings in important ways. Hospital architecture is shaped by at least three interrelated factors differing from those for many other building types. Because of their complexity, hospitals are designed by specialized firms. This means few architects get a chance to design a hospital, which restricts innovation. Second, innovation is complicated by strict regulations and controls (like long-term care). Third, hospitals need to look up-to-date to attract and retain excellent staff (perhaps more than any other building type).

Certainly, there is great reliance on specialist designers in the field, but this in turn can lead to a dependence on established ways of doing things. Medical professionals can also be guilty of this, both in practice and in their approach to teaching new generations of practitioners. Overall, there is a tendency to model the future around proven but conventional paradigms. To balance this, designers and clients should seek out visionaries, within and beyond their organizations, to help support the development process. They should not rely entirely on their views, but introduce designs that can adapt to and promote positive change.

Thinking Differently

Hospitals are a succinct amalgamation of form and function, taking into cognizance the needs of the society with their cultural distinctions. Whilst hospitals form a fundamental segment of every society the world over, planning and design of these facilities vary in accordance. Yet, there are some preconditions that each hospital needs to adhere to. Their planning needs to incorporate future demands of services and patient load. This is where most hospital architects unite in their thought process. It is vital for a hospital architect to keep the operational aspects of a hospital in the foreground during the planning and design process. In many cases, the design can impact a critical situation that a patient may face during the process of care.

Factors such as operational and energy efficiency and its financial impact too need to be taken care of. Considering the high cost of healthcare delivery, these and several related factors have to be anticipated and dealt with by the hospital architect right from inception. Undoubtedly, whilst addressing these matters the standard of treatment should at no time be compromised.

By and large hospital structures do not offer the same visual impact that some modern day nonhealthcare structures do. This is primarily owing to the end use where the purpose is different. Hospitals have always been a place of severe stress, traumatic experience, and anxiety. Yet, the imprint that a hospital imparts to its patients makes a great difference to the process of convalescence. Thus many hospital architects are paying attention to appearances too as this can have a dramatic effect on the healing process.

Technology is likely to further change the nature of healthcare accommodation. New options include remote diagnosis, where advanced imaging, communications, and monitoring allow patients to see specialists remotely, avoiding lengthy travel. The ease of going to a local center to consult the best specialists in this way could take the pressure off dealing with large numbers of outpatients at specialist facilities. This will promote early diagnosis and the treatment of emerging conditions. In parallel, there is likely to be greater emphasis on community care and monitoring patients at home, or at least in a more familiar environment. That puts renewed emphasis on communication, and on developing and integrating technology that neither dominates the hospital room, nor is out of place in the home.

Proactive hospital architects now tend to create healing environments offering both emotional support as well as functionality. The latter somewhat has a template that can be applied to most hospitals in terms of functionality of services. These too are often subject to change based on technological advancements.

Above all, one cannot overlook the changing trends in reducing inpatient days. Whether this is owing to modern clinical techniques and short stay practice or whether it is owing to increasing shortage of medical and nursing staff is yet to be endorsed. However, if this trend continues, hospital architects may need to revisit the drawing board and rethink the entire planning and design process.

Trends in Architectural Designs

Since the second half of the twentieth century, the architectural design of hospital buildings has undergone great changes. Modern hospital design and architecture can transform hospitals from dark and dreary places to ones that are reinvigorating and healing. The design firms must balance the technical needs of doctors and staff with the comfort of patients. Catchwords have changed from light and air to efficiency and flexibility.

Green architecture. Studies suggest that hospital environments and their interior designs affect patient wellness and dignity, where stress-reducing environments support patient wellbeing and recovery process. Firms are working to bring nature indoors with indoor and outdoor gardens, glazed exteriors that provide views and light, and the use of natural materials such as wood and stone. Since outdoor areas play a significant role in the recovery of patients, as the feel of fresh air and a glimpse beyond the hospital walls provide a sense of normalcy, so firms are utilizing the outdoors for this purpose by installing sheltered and refined pathways and gardens.

Patient-centric designs. Patient-centered approaches are gaining significance in today's healthcare industry. As hospitals are one of the important components of the healthcare system, attention to their architectural and spatial designs – from a patient-centered perspective has also increased. As a result a list of future directions on designing patient rooms is inferred with a focus on patient experience.

Single-patient rooms. Over the past few years, there has been a very strong and justified emphasis on hygiene management in the country. However, in light of an increase in multidrug-resistant organisms, for which new preventive measures need to be created, architecture and construction are also becoming more and more important. Rooms with two or more beds are common practice in hospitals. But they have one disadvantage – patients get in contact with each other here and possibly infect each other. General trends call for single-patient rooms (SPR) that are deemed better at preventing the spread of infection and offering a better experience.

Adaptability and flexibility. Architects are designing hospitals with future-proofing in mind to ensure that the infrastructure can quickly and seamlessly adapt and change rapidly and economically to help the patients in the coming decades. The recent designs have advanced architectural, engineering, and construction techniques that enable pre-fabrication and modularization. Operating and procedural rooms of all types can be assembled and reassembled easily now with no loss of infection control and utility.

Technology adoption. One of the main technologies gaining high adoption in the industry is building information modeling (BIM) that helps to determine everything from the geometry, the shape, to the ceiling–floor height of the building. More and more firms today are moving to BIM and parametric designing. Software is being used to check for structural quality and stability, as well as to gauge the building's behavior in seismic conditions. Modular MEP (mechanical, electrical, and plumbing) is currently being used to conduct clash detection tests early on and to identify structural gaps right at the start. This helps to deliver huge cost savings compared to conventional design.

Obstacles and Opportunities Abound

The nation's healthcare infrastructure is aging, with many hospital campuses occupied by buildings that are ill-suited to meet the demands of modern healthcare. The country has an aging baby boomer population that will require care and treatment for chronic problems, which accompany old age. Also, the demographic and financial composition of the country is evolving. Many of the rural areas of the country are poorly served and lack adequate healthcare services. These realities provide direction for where healthcare providers might make meaningful and defensible investments.

Architects may be as ill-equipped to resolve the healthcare policy turmoil as everyone else, but healthcare designers are very well-positioned to assist their clients strategically with insight and creativity – not only to navigate the stormy waters that are currently roiling the industry, but also to make meaningful interventions that provide long-term value to the communities they and their healthcare clients serve.

Way Forward

If the design of future hospitals is led by the needs of patients, the training of healthcare professionals, as well as greater patient expectations, an ageing population and economic pressures, it is not simply a case of designing today's hospital in a better way – successful design needs to anticipate and respond to emerging issues.

As healthcare organizations plan new facilities and evaluate their overall real-estate portfolio, they will continue to look toward facilities that support a first class experience. Not only will they be concerned with the patient experience, but employee satisfaction will also play a major role. The continued growth of retail care in a healthcare organizations real estate portfolio will continue to be a focus in 2017 and beyond.


10 Diagnostic Imaging Trends for 2018

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