Picture your last visit to a hospital, or if you're lucky enough to have avoided hospitals, picture your doctor's office. If it's anything like the typical medical center, it's not a fun place to be: a blaring TV in the corner, fluorescent lights, a chemical smell in the air, and anxious people wishing they could be anywhere else. It's crowded. Technology, and the layout of the building itself, is usually outdated.
It's an environment that's hard to change. Sally Whitman, who runs a nonprofit called NXT Health that works on designing the future of health care, told Metropolis Magazine:
"People in healthcare desperately want to innovate. The problem is they don't have the resources to do it. They're dealing with patients who are sick and dying; there's no safe place to step back and ask what the customer really needs. Like any industry, health care needs a separate R&D department if we're ever going to see true innovation."
NXT Health is working on one vision for the future hospital. Patient Room 2020, a prototype of the design, opened up this month in New York after more than six years of research. They wanted to tackle huge challenges, including a growing demand for healthcare services as the population ages, huge costs to run facilities, federal requirements for new technology, and preventable medical errors that kill 98,000 people a year.
The solutions in the prototype room start with better technology—a table over the bed can be flipped over to reveal a tablet, where a patient can look at their health records, call a nurse, control the temperature and lighting in the room, and even connect to the community through social networking. Above the bed, a headboard measures vital signs. Bio-smart fabrics for bedsheets and scrubs kill bacteria on contact. A grab bar in the bathroom lights up when it senses motion.
Outside the hospital room, a small hub for a nurse or doctor has an LED light that changes color to show whether someone has washed their hands long enough, while a tablet above the sink keeps score. Though all the tech sounds (and is) expensive, it's intended to help hospitals save money as they're providing better care. Better hand-washing alone can save more than 100,000 lives and $30 billion a year.
Right now, it's just a prototype. Which hospital will be first to try it out?
Images courtesy of NXT Health