High-tech hospitals of the future will ‘bring the healing to the patients’ with virtual consultations and remote diagnostic/monitoring services delivering added value to patient care

Hospitals of the future may look nothing like the hospitals of today and those changes could have major implications for clinical pathologists and medical laboratory scientists.

That’s according to Samuel Smits of Gupta Strategists, a consulting firm in the Netherlands that focuses on the four pillars of the healthcare value chain: suppliers, payers, providers, and government institutions.

In an article in The Economist, Smits predicted that traditional hospitals soon will be no more. “We have reached the peak of bringing patients to the healing centers—our hospitals,” he said. “We are on the brink of bringing the healing to patients.”

The article further notes that the technological revolution on the horizon “means abandoning long-held assumptions about the delivery of care, the role of the patient, and what makes a good doctor.” Virtual consultations and remote monitoring will mean fewer patients will need in-hospital care, while those who do will find a facility that operates “more like a cross between a modern airport and a swish hotel, with mobile check-in, self-service kiosks for blood and urine tests and the like, and updates on patients’ and relatives’ phones,” the Economist article states.

Changing How Care is Delivered

The Economist predicts that “as some sophisticated diagnostics, including blood tests and virtual imaging, become available remotely, more patients will receive hospital-quality care without leaving home.”

Patrick Murray, PhD, Senior Director of Worldwide Scientific Affairs for Becton Dickinson Diagnostics in Franklin, NJ, stated in a Clinical Lab Products (CLP) article that technological advances in laboratory testing and diagnosis will enable pathologists to find increasing numbers of ways to deliver added-value to patient care.

“In my opinion, all diseases and conditions—particularly in the areas of overall wellness, women’s health, chronic diseases, and infectious disease—will benefit from the development of new tests and technologies,” Murray stated in the CLP article. “Additionally, new technologies can help meet the need to ensure traceability and seamless communication of test results not only within the lab, but also with the pharmacy, retail clinics, and physician offices, ultimately aiding in better patient management and providing more accurate insights in public health.”

Patient-and-Digital-First Hospitals

While experts predict patient-and-digital-first philosophies to be the future of hospital design, some healthcare systems already have embraced the trend. At Humber River Hospital in Toronto the future is now. An article in Modern Healthcare describes the patient-centered, high-tech, 656-bed facility, which opened in October 2015, as North America’s “first fully digital hospital.” The hospital leverages technology “wherever possible to improve quality, safety, efficiency, and customer service,” the hospital’s website states.

Humber River Hospital (above) in Toronto has been described as North America’s “first digital hospital.” It offers virtual check-in and registration as well as integrated bedside patient computer terminals that enable patients to order meals, adjust lights, play games, and access internet, television, radio, and their patient portal. (Photo copyright: Humber River Hospital.)

Humber River Hospital’s high-tech features include:

  • Robotic blood and specimen testing with results available in minutes and sent electronically to the care team with alerts for immediate attention;
  • Computerized patient documentation for immediate bedside charting;
  • Bedside computers that enable patients to control lights, use telephone and internet, order food, and review their medical, virtual check-in, and registration information;
  • A 4,500-square-foot “Command Center” (opens late 2017) will provide real-time data and predictive analytics to improve clinical, operational, and patient outcomes.

Additionally:

  • Three-fourths of the hospital’s supply chain is fully automated; and
  • Real-time locating systems (RTLS) track wandering patients and improve security for newborns.

Quality, Safety, Efficiency, Customer Service

Despite all the predicted upheaval to the status quo, John Deverill, Managing Partner at GE Healthcare Partners, expects the modern hospital will survive in some form. “There will always be hospitals where patients with complex needs go for multidisciplinary diagnosis and treatment by teams of specialists,” he stated in the Economist article. He does note, however, that stand-alone facilities for specific surgical interventions, such as joint replacements, may become the norm.

However, former Humber River Hospital President and CEO Rueben Devlin, MD, recommends hospitals not assume every high-tech healthcare innovation is worth pursuing.

“The four things that I think about are quality, safety, efficiency, and customer experience,” he stated in the Modern Healthcare article. “People talk about the Internet of things. I think about the Internet of junk. They’re nice toys but they need to show value to healthcare to make it purposeful.”

Anatomic pathology laboratories have a track record for adopting new technologies. Pathologists were early users of the remote telemedicine models, where telepathology systems enabled a pathologist to remotely control the stage and microscope of the pathologist who originated the telepathology session.

Similarly, the current generation of whole-slide imaging and digital pathology systems are gaining regulatory clearance in both Europe and the United States. If this next wave of technological innovations produces a shift in how clinical care is delivered, an opportunity will be created for clinical pathologists and medical laboratory scientists to adopt technologies that deliver added value to patients, including making inpatient hospital stays less likely.

—Andrea Downing Peck

 

Related Information:

How Hospitals Could Be Rebuilt Better Than Before

The Hospital of the Future Is Here…But it Needs more Gadgets and Bandwidth

Clinical Lab Trends 2016

NASA-like Command Centers are Coming to Hospitals

Will Growth in Number of Tele-ICU Programs in the Nation’s Hospitals Create an Opportunity for Clinical Pathologists to Deliver Added Value?