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Bedless Hospitals: Tracking the Healthcare Industry's Shift Toward Outpatient Care

Bedless Hospitals: Tracking the Healthcare Industry's Shift Toward Outpatient Care #NHITWeek

Corey Gaarde, FHIMSS

Hospital beds are disappearing across the country, and it's not because there are fewer patients to fill them. It's because healthcare organizations are finding powerful new opportunities in rethinking how and where care is delivered – beyond the four walls of the hospital.

As the healthcare industry faces continuing policy uncertainty and cost pressures, many large healthcare organizations are going where the patients are. They're creating networks of facilities that can serve patients in their own communities – while keeping operational costs in line. Driven by the rise of healthcare consumerism, designers and architects are being challenged to reimagine the design of healthcare facilities and the role technology will play to meet the need for a healthcare "anytime" approach.

With the emergence of new and different types of healthcare facilities, from urgent care clinics to micro-hospitals to freestanding emergency departments (EDs), healthcare is increasingly happening outside the hospital walls and traditional doctors' offices. In addition, medical wearables and advanced telemedicine technologies are enabling patients to connect to their caregivers without even leaving home. Even acute conditions can sometimes be treated remotely. Hospitals creating electronic intensive care units that offer intensive care and emergency medical expertise to patients down the hall – or in another city.

RELATED: Bringing Care Delivery Back to the Home

Healthcare organizations have opportunities to explore elements leveraging big data and predictive analytics to make evidence-based decisions. For instance, Internet of Things (IoT) point of care devices offer a key data stream that helps determine compliance with care plans as well as risks of predictable failing health indicators. Monitoring patient data with IoT devices allows providers to intervene and actively take a role in improving patient's health and reducing risks from a remote setting. IoT-as-a-service and the data collected from remote devices will play a key role in prevention and could change the way that providers deliver care in non-traditional settings.

Artificial intelligence (AI), too, will likely be a significant element shaping the 'bedless' hospital of the future. Healthcare designers and strategists including technology teams should consider how advanced AI systems will impact facility projects. To that point, new types of medical startups are demonstrating what the doctor's office of the future will look like using AI and connected tools.

These innovative approaches to healthcare service delivery offer the promise of new revenue streams and cost management opportunities for healthcare providers and better outcomes for patient communities. In the design of the next generation of healthcare facilities, designers and technology teams must work in tandem to enable a connected care ecosystem and collaborate with vendors to integrate sound technology strategies early in the design process.

The views and opinions expressed in this blog or by commenters are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of HIMSS or its affiliates.

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