On the recommendation of a board member, I recently read Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow. Written by Yuval Noah Harari, the book explores the future of humanity and potential paths of human evolution in the twenty-first century.

It’s a great read, full of predictions that will prompt your own thoughts about its impact on our healthcare system and, by extension, our industry. It was published in 2015, and it’s especially interesting to read it through the lens of 2023, as we’re already seeing flashes of some of the developments the author anticipates.

The premise of “Homo Deus” is that with advances in science, technology, and artificial intelligence, humans will gain increasing control over their biological and cognitive processes.

As such, we will strive to overcome the limitations of mortality, suffering, and ignorance. Harari argues that we will move from being Homo sapiens (“wise humans”) to a new species called Homo deus (“god-like humans”).

Although the concept of “godlike humans” may seem far-fetched, wearable technologies, genetic mapping, and advances in biotechnology are already pushing us in this direction. How might the healthcare delivery system and environments of care change in response?

(sub) 5 Effects of technology and scientific advances on health care

The book notes that the healthcare landscape is likely to undergo major shifts, and in turn, our healthcare systems will need to change just as much. Here are some of the more notable potential effects:

  1. Preventive medicine and personal health care —With advances in biotechnology and genomics, healthcare may shift toward a more proactive approach. Instead of treating diseases in the first place, the focus may shift to preventing them. Personalized medicine, tailored to an individual’s unique genetic makeup, could become more widespread.
  2. reinforcement techniques-As humans seek to transcend their biological limits, we could see an increase in the use of augmentation technologies, such as genetic engineering, cognitive enhancements, or the integration of humans with artificial intelligence. Healthcare systems may need to adapt to accommodate these new technologies and address ethical considerations surrounding their use.
  3. Data-driven healthcare —The increasing availability of health data, along with advances in artificial intelligence, will revolutionize healthcare. Predictive analytics and machine learning algorithms can aid in early disease detection, treatment recommendations, and personal health monitoring. However, concerns about data privacy and the ethical use of personal health information need to be addressed.
  4. inequality and access –The book also raises concerns about possible exacerbation of inequalities in health care. And if advanced medical improvements and technologies become available only to the privileged few, it could lead to a widening gap between those who can afford these treatments and those who cannot. Ensuring equitable access to health care becomes a critical challenge.

Design strategies for integrating new technologies

These potential developments could have several implications for the design of our healthcare organizations. For example, as healthcare becomes more data-driven and technology-driven, healthcare spaces will need to incorporate more advanced digital infrastructures to enable seamless technology integration.

This may include integrating electronic health record systems, telemedicine capabilities, and smart devices to monitor patients. Physical design and infrastructure will need to seamlessly accommodate these technologies.

With the shift towards preventive medicine and personalized healthcare, there will be a greater focus on creating patient-centered spaces. The one-size-fits-all approach will become less impactful from an experience and results point of view. Leveraging technology to personalize the experience will become even more seamless.

Moreover, as medical technology advances, healthcare spaces will need to upgrade their diagnostic and treatment capabilities. This could include integrating advanced imaging equipment, robotic surgery systems, or other cutting-edge technologies into a wide range of care settings. More designs will need to accommodate these specialized facilities, ensuring optimal workflow and patient safety.

Additionally, given the rapid pace of technological advancement, it may be necessary for healthcare facilities to be flexible and adaptable to changing needs. Designing spaces that can be easily reconfigured or upgraded with new technologies can facilitate seamless integration and future protection.

Maintaining patient privacy and confidentiality will be paramount as the industry becomes more data-driven as well. The design of hospitals and doctors’ offices may include dedicated spaces for secure data storage and measures to prevent unauthorized access to sensitive information.

Of course, the types and extent of specific design changes will depend on the pace of technological progress, regulatory frameworks, and healthcare organizations’ priorities. But in the end, the ultimate goals of quality healthcare design will not change: creating environments that improve patient care, support healthcare providers, and adapt to emerging trends and innovations in the healthcare industry.

Debra Levine is President and CEO of the Center for Healthy Design and can be reached at delvin@healthdesign.org.

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