In this series, Healthcare Design asks leading healthcare design professionals, firms, and owners to tell us what’s got their attention and share some ideas on the subject.

Kimberly Lamb is executive director, healthcare solutions, at JLL, a real estate services firm (Chicago).

Here, she shares her thoughts on how the acceleration of technology and patient experience-focused design and delivery are impacting the future of healthcare and patient care.

  1. From stark and sterile to serene and spa-like

The care environment impacts overall patient well-being – and health systems are taking notice. Similar to how modern hotels, offices, and retail spaces have progressed in recent years, healthcare has evolved toward a more spa-like, hospitality-focused model to support the importance of the care environment. As innovative new healthcare companies like Haven (a joint healthcare venture between Amazon, J.P. Morgan, and Berkshire Hathaway) emerge and savvy operators enter the healthcare space and aim to disrupt when, where, and how care is delivered, healthcare systems are becoming more innovative in their approach to care delivery. As a result, many systems are looking more holistically at the patient experience, viewing them not just as patients but as consumers.

  1. Technology is impacting patient experience and design considerations

Technology is impacting the patient experience and how hospital and medical office design can better support that new experience. For example, in some higher-end hospitals, palm scan check-in automatically provides up-to-date patient information for care providers, including medical records. Automation technology decreases the reliance on paper and bulky storage equipment, and as this technology becomes smaller and sleeker, medical facilities will embrace a cleaner, less cluttered aesthetic. Tech is also changing the way that doctors and staff interact with the patient and administer services. For example, portals built directly into patient-room walls allow doctors and nurses to virtually check-in on patients without physically coming to the room, while also enabling patients to use the portals to control room functions like lighting and temperature and various forms of entertainment.

  1. AI will be an industry game changer

With healthcare spending expected to grow by more than nearly $2 trillion in the next decade—reaching a projected 19.7 percent GDP in 2026—artificial intelligence (AI) promises to complement the desperate need for manpower by helping deliver efficiency throughout the care environment. For example, some procedures can be made much more efficient by leveraging AI apps, such as 3-D technology used to assist doctors performing heart surgery. This also means that patient and procedure rooms can be smaller, without bulky equipment because the technology is smaller and more mobile, resulting in a cleaner, more minimalist look.

  1. The robots are coming

Already, delivery robots (about the size of a mini-fridge) can be found delivering pills, bringing lunch to patients, and transporting samples and medical equipment to different labs. Some hospitals are set up for delivery robots to open remote-control doors and even use elevators to get around the building. It may come as a surprise that most hospitals and medical offices are already architecturally ready for robotic use, since they’ve already been designed for wheelchair accommodations, which require a similar circumference clearance. This has enabled health systems to more easily integrate robotics into the care environment. For instance, Texas Medical Center is leveraging germ-killing robots to fight coronavirus, and robots are delivering meals and medication to COVID-19 patients in Singapore to reduce exposure of healthcare workers.

5. Alternative methods of patient engagement and retention will be utilized

Telehealth companies have seen record demand and digital health expansion during the COVID-19 pandemic, from teletriage to telemental health services, signaling that practitioner-patient connectivity must be borderless and transcend healthcare walls. Looking to the future, telehealth and AI will continue its recent momentum as an alternative avenue to streamline patient services—both in and out of the doctor’s office. For example, cardiac and stroke patients have already been using telemedicine and AI to support post-rehab follow up. The patient has a wearable that takes vitals, heart rate, and blood pressure and can even do certain testing procedures. Going forward, reimbursement parity, historically a linchpin in widespread telehealth adoption, will need uniformity in a post-pandemic nation before it becomes a standard means of patient engagement.

Kimberly Lamb is executive director, healthcare solutions, at JLL, a real estate services firm (Chicago). She can be reached at