Healthcare has been changing at a rapid pace the last few years. Now, with the passage of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), there are even bigger changes in the near future. As the face of healthcare changes, so must the facilities used by healthcare professionals. In an attempt to keep costs down hospitals will become places for the sickest of the sick to be treated, and more emphasis will be placed on other types of care settings and clinics for less urgent needs. These trends in healthcare engineering will usher in the new era of healthcare needs.
Hospitals will quickly become smaller, more compact facilities with an emphasis on emergent care in order to keep costs down. With a large influx of newly insured patients combined with a decrease in the amount of reimbursement per patient on average, there will be a tendency to keep less severe cases out of the hospital and utilizing urgent care, physician’s practices, or similar clinics instead. Many of these urgent care facilities will operate as satellites of bigger hospitals and will be able to offer smooth transitions into more acute care when needed.
Along with a tendency to keep less urgent cases out of the hospital setting, there will also be a greater need for quality rehabilitation centers and senior care centers. In order to keep readmission (which comes with a steep fine in many cases) to a minimum, these rehabilitation facilities will continue care to those who no longer need the intense and expensive care of a hospital, but are not yet ready to go home. Quality rehabilitation and senior care centers will be in high demand.
The emphasis on the continuum of care will likely reach into home healthcare as well. The ACA will fine hospitals who reach a certain readmission rate, so caring for the patient until they are fully back to health, in the least expensive but most effective way possible is of the utmost importance. Likely there will be major advancements to home healthcare technology, even reaching into the virtual world, as the need to keep costs down and quality high continues.
Healthcare engineering professionals will be tasked with designing these smaller, more compact hospital facilities of the future. The new facilities will need to be efficient, and meet the acute needs of the sickest of the sick. Unlike hospitals of the past which would build new wings in departments that brought in high revenue, these hospitals of the future are likely to cost more than they bring in, and will likely depend on the income of the satellite healthcare facilities.
These new facilities also must focus on providing quality care to their patients. New legislation penalizes hospitals for readmission, hospital acquired infections, and improper or missed diagnoses. Medicare or Medicaid will refuse payment if readmission is too high. Even with an influx of more newly insured patients, hospitals must be careful to give quality care that doesn’t miss a step, else risk losing precious revenue.
There is a link between building design and quality of care. Facility designers and individuals in careers in electrical engineering are tasked with the challenge of meeting the new needs of the healthcare industry. When the facility design follows evidence-based strategies, it is more successful at lowering readmissions and providing quality care to the patients in the facility. These new designs will ideally shorten length of stay, reduce fall hazards, reduce spread of infections, and reduce readmission rates.
Then there is the question of already existing facilities. The ability for engineers and designers to repurpose the existing buildings to meet the needs of the new healthcare system is an important part of the whole picture. Just demolishing these buildings is not the most desirable option, and instead finding a way to adapt the current building to meet the needs of the changing system is much preferred.
The healthcare system is undergoing many changes, some small, others more drastic. Healthcare engineering can and will adapt to meet the changing needs in order to help hospitals and other facilities deliver the most cost efficient and highest quality care possible to their patients.
Dee Fletcher is a freelancer and ghost writer, and also enjoys guest blogging. She writes mostly about current trends or events in various industries, but also writes advice and how to articles. She works from her home in Southern California and loves to visit the beach as often as she can.
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