Hospital of the future

The Economist‘s recent article “Prescription for the future” describes some new trends in health care treatment and predicts what the hospital of the future will look like.  Some excerpts are below:

When I think of the hospital of the future, I think of a bunch of people sitting in a room full of screens and phones,” says Toby Cosgrove, the Cleveland Clinic’s head. In such a vision, a hospital would resemble an air-traffic control tower, from which medical teams would monitor patients near and far to a standard until recently only possible in an ICU. The institution itself would house only emergency cases and the priciest equipment. The only in-hospital consultations would be those requiring the expertise of several specialists working in a team. Patients inside the building would be cared for better. But fewer people would be admitted, as hospitals co-ordinated care remotely and led population-wide efforts to keep people well.

Kaiser is already leading the way on remote care.

Last year half of consultations offered by Kaiser Permanente, an integrated American health-care firm that runs many hospitals, were virtual, with medical professionals communicating with patients by phone, e-mail or videoconference.

Technology can even augment how surgery is performed.

Sricharan Chalikonda, a surgeon at the Cleveland Clinic, says he can imagine scrubbing up “full Robocop-style”, with a helmet with built-in VR goggles giving him fighter-pilot “super-vision” and gloves that give him “super-hands”. His team has already worked with 3D prints of patients’ organs; the next big leap would be to project live images, showing the blood flowing through them. Microsoft HoloLens, clever virtual-reality goggles, is already being used to teach students about anatomy; cadavers can be cut up, which is useful, but to observe biological processes such as circulation in action only a live or VR body will do. In the future, every big hospital could have a Star Trek-style holodeck where surgeons could plan and rehearse complex operations on a 3D projection of the patient.

The future is sure to be exciting and patients can expect significant advances that will improve their health, improve convenience, and (hopefully) lower costs.

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