From ancillary to essential: Technology’s new role in the healthcare experience (Part 2)

April 16, 2018 Liz Schmitz

To meet hospital user expectations, the ability to anticipate and adapt to ever-changing technology needs is more important than ever


Technology is an integral part of healthcare facility design. From security systems to patient entertainment, and everything in between, it has become a key part of the healthcare experience and operations.

In part one of this series, we discussed how integrating your architectural and technology master plans is key for creating a flexible facility that can be easily adapted for future needs. In part two, we’ll explore how technology drives the way people interact with healthcare spaces and why incorporating your technology master plan into your facility master plan from the beginning will ultimately improve overall user satisfaction.

Technology is driving greater customization of the patient experience

Customization is a main driver in technology today—apps enable us to automatically play music based on our preferences, turn on the lights, and even adjust the thermostat in our house from _q_tweetable:Incorporating your technology master plan into your facility master plan from the beginning will ultimately improve overall user satisfaction._q_anywhere in the world. Patients, as digital consumers, will increasingly expect similar customization of their own experience. Not only is giving patients the ability to impact their environment about satisfaction, it is known from an evidence-based perspective that allowing patients to have choices in their environment helps to reduce stress and give them a sense of control. 

As we look toward the future in our designs, we ask: can a patient control the amount and color of lighting in their space? Can they select the digital artwork that is displayed in their room? Can a patient control the window blinds from their bed? Can they select music to play in their room? Do outdoor spaces provide a variety of seating types so people can pick the level of openness or privacy, the amount of sun or shade, or the view that they prefer?

Technology may change the patient demographics for whom we design

Today, digital natives have shown the greatest affinity for using telemedicine and telehealth—and with younger patients increasingly utilizing remote access to their caregivers, the demographic of healthcare consumers who prefer an in-person patient experience may trend toward older adults. Our facilities will need to ensure universal design for all ages, with special sensitivity to ease of access, especially as we consider visual, auditory, and mobility needs of healthcare consumers. 

There is an increased demand for technology bars and other touchdown spaces

Anywhere people wait, gather, or collaborate, there is a need for technology support. Healthcare consumers will expect waiting rooms, cafeterias, and patient rooms to have charging stations, accommodations for laptops, and access to WiFi. Additionally, there is an expectation that our cellular devices will work anywhere in the facility, especially in lower levels and parking structures. This is both an operational and safety issue that is addressed by implementing Distributed Antenna Systems (DAS) in the infrastructure, and it requires detailed coordination during design.


Hospital users can stay fully connected in Pennsylvania Hospital’s surgical waiting area.

Technology is also increasing user demand for a one-stop wellness experience

Just like the internet is a one-stop place for multiple activities, from shopping, to banking, to entertainment; health and wellness should be a one-stop experience. You should not have to go to multiple offices for lab work, physical therapy, or to see a specialist. Through technology, multiple activities can be scheduled at the same wellness community center and consults with multiple care providers can happen remotely in one location.

The healthcare destination of the future will likely be a “wellness center” with a variety of amenities to attract patients and promote healthy living.


The master plan for Nemours Children’s Hospital in Florida incorporates well-developed amenity spaces within the context of the site and facility.


Technology is changing the physician-patient relationship

Due to the vast amount of available health information on the internet, patients are more knowledgeable than ever before. Doctors are no-longer the sole decision-makers; instead, they are increasingly collaborating with their patients to help them navigate all the information and make informed decisions about their own healthcare.

As healthcare planners, we can facilitate this collaboration by ensuring that technology is thoroughly considered when designing the patient exam room. Monitors in exam rooms should be placed in locations easily viewed by both patient and doctor, so that they can discuss the patient’s chart, radiographic images, or other healthcare information together. During the design process, careful attention must be given to the size of the monitor to ensure that text and video images can be viewed with appropriate resolution and clarity. 


A patient at Massachusetts General Hospital’s Ambulatory Practice of the Future discusses his healthcare information together with his physician.


Technology and the future

The architectural design process has always been focused on people and their experiences in the spaces we create. As technology is increasingly integrated with buildings and a growing part of our daily lives, it has become a critical part of the healthcare experience, and by extension is a key consideration as we design spaces to promote health and wellness.


This is the second blog in a two-part series on integrating the master technology design and hospital facility plans.

About the Author

Liz Schmitz

Liz Schmitz is a licensed architect in Texas and has led projects in all stages of design from project acquisition and master-planning through construction. She especially enjoys working with clients to learn about their unique project goals, develop solutions, and facilitate decision-making.

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