Op/Ed: Hospital of the Future Will Be a Health Delivery Network

One expert explains that, to face the future, the health care industry must do more than simply update the hospitals of the present.

What will the hospital of the future look like?

What will the hospital of the future look like?

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To envision and build tomorrow’s hospital, one thing is clear: We’ll only get so far by re-engineering the hospital of the present. The hospital of the future will not be a hospital at all. Instead, it will be an inventive health delivery network that will require all of us -- industry, clinicians, caregivers, families, and patients -- to coordinate efforts in new ways, so we work together more efficiently to serve more people, with better outcomes at lower costs and higher quality standards. We must break with traditional models and norms and challenge ourselves about how and where care is offered. We need to cooperate through arrangements like private-public-government partnerships that make powerful and meaningful associations among all people, technology, services, situations and costs involved in health delivery.

[READ: Can Hospitals Avoid Waste and Prevent Overtreatment?]

New technology solutions will be key to address fundamental problems such as access to care, provider shortage and an overall need for improving the quality of care at lower costs in the future. For example, in high-cost, high-demand clinical environments like the ICU, telehealth solutions are being used today. With telehealth, intensive care doctors work from a central location using patient monitoring, video and other sophisticated clinical informatics and technologies to oversee the care of many patients, in real time, in several ICUs that may be thousands of miles away. Patients and on-site care providers benefit from expert consultation from intensive care specialists who would otherwise not be available in remote regions.

[Special Report: Hospital of Tomorrow]

A telehealth platform and a highly monitored home environment can serve as an adjunct to traditional health services, enabling people to be cared for in their homes instead of in a hospital. This model offers a healing environment in a lower-cost setting, with the comforts of home. Studies are showing a reduction in readmissions from this model that gives patients and families the tools they need to participate in their own recovery and wellness, while giving care teams the oversight they need to care for their patients and connect in meaningful ways.

Equally as important as technology innovation, the hospital of the future will also require new, innovative training, communication and outreach to engage health professionals and citizens in their own wellbeing and care. Plus, mobile health applications are on the rise to help deliver care with immediacy and at a lower cost.

In building the hospital of the future in the United States, we can learn from the health care systems in other countries – particularly developing countries, where providers are not retrofitting to overcome economic burdens or to repair broken systems to address cost control, payment, coverage and capacity management. These developing countries are clean slates, actively looking for answers to many of the same problems that plague us here in the United States: the rising incidence of chronic conditions, geographic dispersion of families, escalating health care costs and provider shortages.

However, as they’re seeking to improve access and deliver care at an affordable cost, developing countries have the need and the willingness to do rapid prototyping to solve these tough issues—and they can circumvent traditional delivery model transgressions by skipping less efficient and resource-intensive capital and labor phases, moving directly to the heart of what’s required. By “leapfrogging” they’ll move along an accelerated path to the desired end state with entrepreneurial thinking and cutting-edge solutions.

We can learn a thing or two from examples such as the non-governmental organization Imaging the World, which integrates technology, training and community to bring highly accurate ultrasound diagnosis anywhere that a cell phone signal is available. Or Asha Jyoti, a population-based breast cancer screening program that succeeds through cooperation among a clinical, government, industry and social network. We have good examples of the future in the United States, too, like Georgia Regents Medical Center and Philips multi-year collaboration that spans clinical, technology, business, and services aspects of health delivery—far beyond a traditional supplier-customer relationship.

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