29 Sep 2016
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The need for doctors in a hospital is one of the most frequently asked questions when speaking about today’s hospitals and how they will look in the future. In all walks of life, it is near impossible for us to predict what the future holds, albeit that we know that the only constant is change. The hospital of the future is no exception.

To make the question even more interesting, we can take a look at effect of new technologies on the hospital of the future. I particularly call to mind advanced technologies such as Big Data, robotics and the Internet of Things. I read in a recent PwC report that 1.7 billion people are expected to download mobile health apps by 2017, 80% of healthcare consumers in the US would engage with digital services that help them manage their health, and hospital managers claim using Skype for consultations could reduce outpatient appointments by up to 35%.

These are staggering numbers, which will inevitably influence the way in which hospitals plan for the future in terms of infrastructure and clinical services.
Today, robotics already help us to complete many tasks in the operating room, allowing us to cross barriers that we could not have done in the past. In the future, this technology could develop even further to provide us with real-time scenarios and decisions.

The power of a master plan

The important question to ask now is how to prepare a hospital facility to be ready for changes in the future.

This is easier said than done, but must start with a master plan that looks even further in the future than the commonly used 5 year strategic plan. Both the master plan and strategic plan should be “living” documents, but with different goals – the master plan can offer the red line in terms of long-term goals of the hospital and the community it operates in, whilst the strategic plan focuses more on concrete strategic goals in the short to mid-term.

The master plan should envisage goals that are more detailed than purely infrastructure changes in line with the predicted changes in communities or functionalities at a hospital. This should be a plan involving all stakeholders in a community to determine the role that the healthcare facility can play in achieving long term wellbeing in that community, where patients can live life to their fullest potential. Whether that’s different hospitals bundling resources together to create a centre of excellence in their community, or working with local authorities to care for dementia patients in a suitable manner.

Preparing for the future with the local community

All healthcare institutions are of course bound to budgets, targets and changes in their environment. However in this changing landscape, capital investment in infrastructure and major equipment should be seen in the broader context of caring for a total community.

For a hospital to prepare their own master plan, they need to take into account the goals of the community around them, as well as other hospitals, care facilities and stakeholders in the vicinity.

Quality of care should also be part of a master plan and it is necessary for different players in the primary, secondary and tertiary care to interact, plan and have common goals to work to. Monitoring of processes and changing behavior inside facilities and between different players, e.g. the GP and the hospital will also help improve the quality of care.

And as technologies such as mobile health apps and the use of Skype continue to evolve, this could play a huge role in how community care is delivered.
Will the hospital of the future really need doctors? I believe that they will, and for the foreseeable future they will remain as the main backbone of cure in our society. But 20 years down the line, as new technologies come into play and more and more healthcare services move into the community, it will be interesting to see how their function will continue to change.

Royal HaskoningDHV will be exhibiting at Healthcare Estates from 4-5 October in Manchester Central, a unique event featuring the prestigious IHEEM Annual Conference. Do come and see us on stand B6 to learn more about our extensive experience in the healthcare industry across Europe.