The healthcare system exists to serve one person—the patient. There are hundreds of articles and speculation on the hospital of the future, patient-centered care, and the patient room of the future. I thought it would be fitting to talk about the patient for which we are planning and designing facilities of the future. 

Let’s meet Tom, one of the 61 million baby boomers projected to need health services over the next 20 years. Tom is his mother’s caretaker, a husband, father, grandfather, volunteer at the food shelter, and likes to garden and walk when the weather permits. Tom lives on a limited income and supplements his Medicare coverage with a state-funded program that requires out of pocket expense.

Like three out of four baby boomers over age 65, Tom has more than one chronic condition, and like 75% of the country, is overweight. Tom says his generation has high expectations and he would like us to know that:

The patient of the future is educated. They know how to ask questions, challenge healthcare providers, and expect choices in treatment and care. The patients of today and tomorrow are informed on the latest treatment trends and options as well as the safety and health risks associated with hospitalization and care. They expect their providers to keep them safe and treated with medically accepted standards of care.    

They are technology and information savvy. They’ve invented and matured the Internet and want to interface with their caregivers online to schedule appointments, receive health information, and request prescription refills. Education will need to be provided through many avenues, and feedback opportunities will need to be provided to make sure instructions are understood.

Things that were considered amenities just a few years ago, such as control of the environment and customized entertainment and education packages, are expected now.

Most of their care will be provided outside of the hospital. Patients will have care that is “navigated” and coordinated to assure that they stay on track with health goals and treatment plans. As patients live longer, demand increases for assisted living and long-term care.

Patients will be more health focused. Patients will be incentivized to stay healthy. More than one-fourth of the population will be diabetic and one-half afflicted with arthritic disease, enforcing the need for healthy diet and exercise. Moreover, staying healthy and compliant with care translates to a lower cost of care. 

The patient of the future has experienced the Great Recession and many have lived in Lean Six Sigma work environments. They are impatient with inefficiency and wasted time and resources.

Their care should be personal, dignified, and private. Remember Tom plays many roles in his life and seeing him as a person helps him heal physically as well as emotionally and spiritually. This includes an environment that is respectful, responsive, quiet, and clean in all settings, not just hospitals. 

You are the patient of the future. What do you expect?  

Terry Thurston is the Director of Healthcare Operational Planning at BSA LifeStructures and brings more than 30 years of healthcare experience as an expert in operational, occupancy, and transition planning. Her experience as a chief nursing and patient safety officer allows her to bring a multi-faceted approach to designing safe and efficient healthcare facilities.