Array Architects' Blog

Technology’s Influence on Healthcare Design

Posted by Guest Contributor on May 30, 2013

Nurse on iPad

On May 20, 2013, DuPont Corian’s showroom in New York hosted Healthcare Design magazine’s event that explored Design Considerations for Technological Innovation in Healthcare Design. The discussion was moderated by Jennifer Kovacs Silvis, the Managing Editor of Healthcare Design, and featured the unique perspectives of three expert panelists: Debbie Gregory, a registered nurse, interior designer, clinical consultant and co-founder of the Nursing Institute for Healthcare Design; John Moore, MD, a physician and technologist at the MIT Media Lab working to support the evolution of the patient’s role in the healthcare system; and Dave Ruthven, AIA, an architect focused on healthcare environments and the integration of technology. We have included short bios of each panelist at the end of this post.

It’s undeniable that technological innovations have, and will continue to impact modern healthcare. Methods of care delivery and workflow evolve as technology becomes more accessible and immersed in our daily lives. The design of the built environment, intended to be a sustainable and lasting element, faces the challenge of keeping up with rapidly changing technology. Adaptability and forward-thinking were at the center of discussions at the Healthcare Design event.

Technology’s influence on Care Delivery

The panelists emphasized that technology must support the workflow. There was acknowledgment that healthcare workers will have to be highly educated and skilled. Younger workers entering the profession are very comfortable with new and evolving technologies but the technologies must be easier to use, be better integrated and communicate seamlessly. For example, it is unreasonable to expect a healthcare worker to have to log-in to multiple applications to do their job.

Future technologies will generate and transmit data wirelessly and automatically. Blood pressure information will be logged in the patient’s EHR from sensors on the patient at regular intervals regardless of patient location. Providers will receive alerts when pressure is out of normal range. Data will be continuously collected, enabling providers to proactively contact the patient as needed to intervene prior to development of major problems; potentially eliminating a hospital ER visit or admission. According to Dr. Moore, the amount of data generated by the patient will allow the individual more control of their health record and health.

Role of People

Throughout the event, it was clear that technology in healthcare cannot be discussed without including another component: People. Regardless of role, i.e. caregiver, patient or family member, the emphasis was on empowerment and connection. The benefits of advancing technology in the clinical space was not to replace humans with robots or computers. The panelists envision technology as a tool to support, not replace, people in problem-solving. The epicenter of healthcare delivery is the patient. The panel’s vision was that the patient – regardless of the setting: inpatient, outpatient or home – will be actively engaged in the process and have access to and control of their health information and accompanying data.

The Built Environment

Patient Room 2020, a prototype patient room of the future, is being constructed in the NY DuPont Corian showroom. The installation is intended to test new ideas; in particular the integration of new technologies and products. The design vocabulary of the prototype is minimalist in recognition that it is a patient room in a hospital, not a hotel. The space should be organized, reflect the intended use and be easy to clean. In essence, the form should follow the function.

The prototype design team has focused on technology and the design of room components such as the overbed table. The overbed table has a variety of uses; staff uses it regularly to stage clinical activities and patients use it for meals, work surface and other activities. The new prototype overbed table is designed to be lighter, easier to clean, and in support of both patient and caregiver use. The top can rotate; one side is a technology screen and the other side a work surface. The panelists also addressed the need for the built environment to be easily updatable to stay current and adaptable to support emerging technology and products. For instance, elements of the room are designed to be modular to allow easy removal and replacement with an element that better supports the new device or equipment.

What’s Next?

The future of healthcare, in the eyes of the panelist, is centered less around a hospital as we know it now: a physical structure where one enters to be healed. They envision one’s health becoming more integrated into daily life, and the delivery of healthcare services will reflect the mobility that technology now offers us. Rather than sitting in a waiting room, time will be spent connecting with other people who have the same condition (websites like:, videochatting a doctor from home and interactive tools that teach and incentivize healthy living. Our role as healthcare architects and designers now is to design clinical environments which support the new ways that people will give and receive care. To utilize technology that facilitates the gathering and analysis of data, and apply it towards creating effective spaces based upon evidence. To problem-solve, and to employ technology as a tool to design environments that support the human process. 

Panelist Bios:

Debbie Gregory is a registered nurse, interior designer, clinical consultant and co-founder of the Nursing Institute for Healthcare Design. She focuses on bringing the caregiver’s voice to the design table, and advocates for collaboration between planners and inhabitants of the clinical workspace. Gregory emphasizes that technology in healthcare must be inclusive, support care and not interfere.

John Moore, MD, is a physician and technologist at the MIT Media Lab working to support the evolution of the patient’s role in the healthcare system. His research has resulted in the design of a clinical workstation that acts as a tool to connect the patient with doctors and resources to support wellness, both inside and outside of the hospital walls. Moore’s intention is to provide patients with tools to empower them to become more involved with their own wellness.

Dave Ruthven, AIA, is an architect focused on healthcare environments and the integration of technology. His work as an NXT Health Fellow led to the development of the “Patient Room 2020,” recently featured in Metropolis magazine. In this “concept-car” of a patient room, Ruthven experiments with design and technology and explores the evolution of clinical environments in a space free of the “roadblocks” that healthcare designers often encounter.

Written by Kristen Clay, formerly an interior designer with Array.


Topics: technology, Healthcare Design, Affordable Care Act (ACA), Continuous Improvement, Healthcare, Advisory Services

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