When I recently asked a panel of healthcare technology gurus what their ideal environment of care looks like, it wasn’t a “homelike” space that they described. Rather, it was very literally “home.”

I had the pleasure of moderating the panel “Design Considerations for Technological Innovation in Healthcare Delivery,” a DuPont event held in conjunction with Healthcare Design at the DuPont Corian Design Studio in New York.

On tap for the talk were Dave Ruthven, an architect and fellow with nonprofit Nxt Health (New York); Debbie Gregory, senior clinical consultant at Smith, Seckman, Reid Inc. (Nashville) and cofounder of the Nursing Institute for Healthcare Design; and John Moore, a PhD candidate at the MIT Media Lab, New Media Medicine (Cambridge, Mass.). 

Throughout our discussion were themes of patient empowerment—taking care outside of the hospital or medical office building, and using technology to support patients in managing themselves. Think of monitoring your vitals via your smart phone, having an alarm that notifies your spouse that you missed an insulin injection, or skipping a trip to the ER when your infant has croup and instead quickly consulting a pediatrician from your iPad.

And this isn’t even shooting for the moon. These types of shifts in care delivery and health management are just the beginning of what the panelists are working on within their individual organizations. But what they all have in common is that, largely, the physical environment will take a backseat in the future as technology becomes the tool that will support care off-site.

But, of course, there's more to it than that. We'll still need our hospitals and outpatient facilities—and that was part of the discussion, too.

Specifically, Ruthven shared what he’s doing with Nxt Health, the group behind the lauded Patient Room 2020, a prototype of which is currently being built at the DuPont Corian Design Studio that attendees were able to sneak a peek of during the event.



At its heart, Patient Room 2020 is a concept that illustrates how the integration of architecture, products, technology, and process can be used to redefine the care experience and improve outcomes. Based upon a modular system with interchangeable parts that will answer the call for future flexibility, as well as high-tech touch points that support the patient empowerment that the panel discussed, it is yet another piece to the future technology puzzle.

When a networking event got started following our panel, I was curious to hear responses from our design attendees on the implications all of these ideas have for the design space. Overall, though, what I heard was excitement.

No one lamented the idea of telemedicine in place of office visits. Instead, I could practically hear the wheels turning. There were thoughts on technology that could be integrated into exam rooms so caregivers can spend their time focused on the patient, rather than on taking blood pressure. Or how the data patients are tracking on their own mobile devices could be quickly downloaded into a health system’s electronic medical record so physicians can easily access immediate past histories.

It wasn’t unease for the future of the physical space at all. Instead, it was a collaborative spirit focused on a bit of realignment to design a care environment with the necessary technology to support where we're heading.

It's a big conversation with a lot of moving parts, but it's an exciting one to be a part of. What are your thoughts on how technology will change the way we design the physical space?