As technology becomes more prominent throughout the healthcare landscape, speakers at HCD Virtual, Nov. 9-12, stressed that it should be used to enhance patient-caregiver interactions but not replace them. “Our focus is on humanizing the healthcare experience,” said Louis Meilink, senior principal at Ballinger, during the session “The Spectrum of Technologies: The Current And Future State Of Healthcare.” Meilink presented with colleague Erin Cooper, principal at Ballinger.

For example, the speakers noted the 745,000-square-foot NewYork-Presbyterian David H. Koch Center (New York), a world-class ambulatory care center opened in April 2018 that incorporates kiosk check-in, patient and companion bands that provide security, elevator access, and wayfinding, and notification systems used to enhance the experience of the occupants. “At the very onset of the project, technology was embraced from every component including the patient, family, and staff experience,” Cooper said. “We wanted to use technology to give patients and families a welcoming experience before they even arrived at the building and have a very streamlined arrival and approach.”

More recently, Meilink says one technology that continues to advance is telemedicine, especially during the pandemic. “There’s been high adoption and consumer demand for telemedicine, whether it’s patient to provider, provider to provider, or family/patient to provider,” he says. “One of the keys to this growth has been access to reimbursement, and hopefully this will continue beyond the pandemic.”

For example,  Mercy Health in St. Louis created the Virtual Care Center, which offers telemedicine/virtual visits and an eICU, a form of telemedicine that uses state of the art technology to provide an additional layer of critical care service.

This widespread adoption of telehealth will shift the physical environments where care is provided, he added. “Primary care doctors are scheduling sessions for virtual visits, the same as in-person visits, which may rethink how much physical space is needed,” Meilink said.

The adoption of smart devices has also been on the rise over the last five years, including among those aged 65 and older. “This is especially important when we look at our growing senior population and managing chronic care,” Meilink said. “Telemedicine, virtual visits, and the ability to manage chronic care will give us the ability to live better lives and manage costs.”

Looking to the future, the speakers said the healthcare industry should turn to other industries for inspiration and ideas. For example, thanks to food delivery services and companies like Uber and Lyft, consumers expect to be able to track the status of their pizza or ride. In hospitality environments, consumers can choose preferences such as lighting. “To apply this to a healthcare facility, in the future we [will be able] to see when our nurse is coming into the room, when our medication will arrive, and what time our imaging will occur,” she said.

Others are using advancing technologies to better support patients closer to home. At  New York-Presbyterian, Meilink said the healthcare organization has mobile stroke trucks equipped with high-tech imaging equipment that go around the city to bring care to patients and can be overseen by one neurologist.

Virtual or augmented reality taken from gaming and entertainment could also be incorporated strategically into healthcare to enhance but not replace human interaction. For example, while VR is regularly used as part of the design process to allow multiple stakeholders to do a virtual walk-through during design phases, Cooper said it could also have application with staff training, providing patient distraction, and enabling patients to interact virtually if mobility prevents in-person interaction. “It’s interesting to think that healthcare design can become the vessel for these virtual interactions,” she said.

“Planning and design must provide for opportunities for changes that can’t be imagined over the life span of a building or campus,” Meilink said.

Missed HCD Virtual? Don’t worry. Registration is still open, and all sessions will be available on demand through the end of the year. Visit for more information.

Tracey Walker is managing editor of Healthcare Design. She can be reached at