Gokul Natarajan Page

Gokul Natarajan (Headshot credit: Page)

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

Gokul Natarajan is a principal and project director, at Page (Houston), a multidisciplinary design, architecture, and engineering firm.

Here, he shares the top five trends and issues getting his attention right now, including identifying AI’s impact on healthcare, using digital twins to improve facility operations, and growing role of health command hubs.

  1. Healthcare disparities

There’s been a shift in understanding the intricate relationship among the built environment, care delivery spaces, and healthcare disparities. The design of hospitals is now centered on social determinants of health, aiming to impact equity and accessibility positively.

This involves going beyond traditional design considerations to promote community-centered care and incorporate wellness measures through spaces such as demonstration kitchens, public gardens, walking paths, and outreach classes. These measures help create holistic healing environments that encourage patient engagement and empowerment.

  1. Artificial Intelligence

Artificial intelligence (AI) and big data are poised to transform healthcare, revolutionizing diagnostics, treatment, and patient care. While the potential for more personalized and efficient care is significant, addressing ethical and privacy concerns is crucial.

It is key to identify where AI can enhance operations strategically and selectively. These areas can be identified through data analysis, investment in the right tools, developing the right capabilities, and goal setting.

The rapid growth in AI technologies impacts patient care and influences facility design. AI can help healthcare systems address the current labor shortage that the industry is experiencing, such as automating routine tasks, improving security, predicting equipment failures, and optimizing energy management and resource allocation in hospital buildings.

AI’s abilities reduce the burden on staff, allowing them to focus on more complex and critical aspects of patient care. Spaces in hospital buildings must be designed with future flexibility in mind to accommodate the rapid advancements in AI technology that necessitate programmatic changes as technology and healthcare delivery evolve.

  1. Growth of smart buildings and innovative technology

By 2026, the smart hospitals market will be valued at $83 billion. Smart hospitals are at the forefront of this innovative technology evolution, leveraging advanced technologies such as ambient intelligence, the Internet of Things (IoT) sensors for real-time monitoring, automated climate control, robotics, and automation.

Ambient intelligence, which involves integrating technology into the environment alongside these other cutting-edge technologies, aims to elevate the quality of care, enhance patient experiences, address operational challenges, heighten security, and mitigate the impact of staff shortages.

In smart buildings, ambient intelligence integrates into the environment by adapting to customized patient experiences through monitoring vital signs, creating personalized treatment plans from sensor data, detecting falls, and managing medication.

Additionally, smart hospitals strive to streamline behind-the-scenes services, including materials management, waste collection, and meal delivery, to improve operations and patient experience.

  1. Digital twins in the healthcare system

Digital twins are replicas that can be used to create models for hospitals, humans, or processes such as surgeries. They provide a safe environment for healthcare professionals to enhance their skills and help ensure efficient operations.

These visual, virtual representations, which are computational models of physical objects or processes, are updated using data from the real world and connect to sensors, enabling the tracking of movement, equipment, and even new medication while keeping track of operational and performance indicators, areas of risk, and optimal outcomes.

The data generated can support funding justifications for renovations or new projects, improve patient care, and drive healthcare design innovations by providing insights into how healthcare facilities operate in real time.

Data can also be generated on optimized layouts, energy efficiency, and resource allocation for maximum efficiency. By analyzing this data, healthcare facilities can be designed and driven by evidence-based decision-making, leading to an environment that meets the needs of patients, staff, and visitors.

  1. Health command hubs

The future of healthcare involves decentralization, with some services, such as home sleep tests, heart monitoring, and smartphone-based ear infection detection, shifting to remote options.

As remote options become increasingly prevalent, healthcare facilities must establish command hubs. These hubs are centralized platforms to gather and manage the data required for effective remote monitoring and consultation.

The growth of these command hubs emphasizes continuous monitoring of human lives for health, wellness, outcomes, predictive risk, and early diagnostic warning signs. Additionally, hospitals will be set up specifically for telemedicine, virtual consultation, and remote monitoring.

To gather this data and provide continuous monitoring, healthcare facilities will need command hubs capable of tracking patients in a hospital or multi-hospital system, those cared for at home, and patients with wearable devices that track in real-time.

These hubs can be part of a healthcare facility or be centrally located in a multi-hospital system.

Gokul Natarajan is a principal and project director at Page (Houston) and can be reached at gnatarajan@pagethink.com.

Want to share your Top 5? Contact Managing Editor Tracey Walker at tracey.walker@emeraldx.com for submission instructions.