Healthcare Design Trends in a Post-COVID 2021
While the healthcare sector has shown an impressive ability to adapt to surprises, we will all be hoping for a smoother and more predictable 2021. Evoke Projects presents the most likely healthcare design trends for the year ahead.
Adaptable healthcare design
Having to adapt quickly in 2020 led to many changes in the way healthcare practices operated. It is unlikely that medical centres and GP surgeries will resort back to pre-COVID norms. They will continue with successful initiatives from 2020 and look to build upon them.
After the learnings of 2020, there will be a focus on flexible and adaptable healthcare design that can respond quickly to new situations. “Surge capacity management” will be a buzzword in 2021 as practices ensure their healthcare fit-outs can manage patient surges.
The healthcare industry was an early adopter of floor stickers and warning signs to promote physical distancing. Visual cues about keeping 1.5m apart will become more sophisticated and aesthetically pleasing. Practices are now putting in place longer term measures by changing the healthcare fit-out and using technology to reduce touch points and contact (see below). Plexiglass will continue to be our friend.
Healthcare fit-outs that improve patient flow
Improving patient flow in 2021 is equally about safety, efficiency and patient experience. Lean principles that minimise waste in processes and procedures will gather pace with unnecessary common areas being repurposed through new healthcare practice fit-outs.
Dedicated entry and exit doors will minimise patient exposure and interaction, and new healthcare fit-outs are being designed with one-way or wider hallways. Hospitals already have screening stations so that patients exhibiting any COVID symptoms are filtered away from other patients. It is likely that healthcare practices will increasingly set up hot zones/rooms to isolate patients exhibiting any COVID symptoms.
With a focus on reducing large groups of people in waiting areas, the trend is towards multiple waiting rooms close to clinical areas. This speeds up patient changeover and improves the patient experience.
Healthcare practices will look to expand their service offerings to be able to treat the whole person in one healthcare fit-out including diagnosis, treatment and education. Mental health services will increasingly become part of mainstream healthcare practices.
For staff, in 2021, locker rooms will be redesigned, and we will likely see administrative staff working from home at least some of the time.
Sanitisation will set practices apart
Patients and staff will be assessing a practice’s hygiene and sanitisation more than ever before. The basics are obvious, (e.g. clear protocols around PPE donning and doffing for staff / asking patients to wear masks), but this year will be about taking the next step in hygiene and sanitisation:
– Highly visible cleaning schedules
– Healthcare practice refurbishment to include easy-clean furniture and surfaces
– Assessing the effectiveness of antimicrobial materials against COVID.
Patients and staff will understandably be concerned about the air quality in medical centres. Air filtration systems can be improved during new healthcare fit-outs, while smaller scale healthcare refurbishments can incorporate plants that naturally filter the air (see https://www.bhg.com.au/best-air-cleaning-plants for ideas). Public signs that explain how the filtration system works to protect people will grow in popularity.
Technology steps up
Technological solutions will be adapted to suit long term objectives rather than the needs-must approach of 2020.
Formed in 2016, the Australian Digital Health Agency is a Commonwealth Government entity with a mission to develop a collaborative environment that accelerates adoption and use of innovative digital services and technologies. Plans for 2021 include further developments around the My Health Record program, Service Registration Assistant (electronic register of healthcare practitioners), Telehealth and Electronic Prescriptions.
Digitisation of a patient’s physical records will continue to improve productivity and reduce storage needs. Going one step further, digitalisation of processes will improve patient flow and efficiency. Digital processes also make people feel more secure, with less fear of human error. Practices will explore and adopt patient engagement technology for appointment bookings, digital forms, mobile check-in, patient recalls and prescriptions. This reduces close interaction and touch points between patients and staff, while improving the patient experience.
Automation will arrive at the doors (literally) of all healthcare practices. Those that do not have automatic entrance and exit doors will need to find other ways to make patients feel safe. Interior door automation will also become more common during healthcare practice fit-outs and refurbishments.
Perception makes a difference to mental health and early detection of disease
Healthcare practices have never been more scrutinised than they are today. The perception of safety is very important to a patient’s mental health and well-being. If people are concerned about visiting a practice, they might delay treatment or suffer unnecessary mental anguish and stress. A modern healthcare design and fit-out is imperative to reassure patients that they are visiting a COVID-safe practice. Behind the scenes work is no longer enough; practices need to look shiny and clean while advertising all the steps they take to keep us safe.
From a business point of view, patients often have a choice about which practice they visit, especially for radiology, imaging, testing, screening and allied healthcare services. It makes good business sense to be the first choice. For more information on healthcare design, refurbishments and fit-outs, please call Evoke Projects on 1300 720 692.