Will the Hospital Room of the Future Be A Reality by 2020?……Doubt It!

Last week, Wired published an article entitled, “What Would the Ideal Hospital Look Like in 2020?” which portrays the the patient room with very futuristic technology concepts.  This article is based upon the “Patient Room 2020” project from NXT Health.  While this project depicts a very impressive technological room concept and has valid points for improving patient care the reality is that this room won’t come to fruition by 2020 for the following reasons.

Healthcare is 10 Years Behind Most Technological Advancements

For anyone that works in healthcare IT will quickly realize that most of the industry is 10 years behind in adopting technology that other industries have had in place for years.  For example, hospitals are just now focusing on establishing a consistent EMR across all their facilities.  This equates to manufacturing implementing ERP systems (aka, SAP) 15 years ago.  Also, healthcare is just now implementing data warehouses to assist with patient care.  With the focus being on EMR implementation to gain government reimbursement the likelihood of hospitals implementing patient room technology is unrealistic.

The Capital for New Hospitals Won’t Be There

As part of the healthcare reform, the reimbursements from the government will continue to decrease which will impact the capital available for healthcare systems to do major projects.  According to a Standard & Poor’s 2011, 

“Essentially, hospitals are holding off on major capital projects as new healthcare reform measures unfold. For instance, hospitals and health systems would rather postpone building a new inpatient bed tower to see if that type of project is necessary in an environment that discourages inpatient stays.

"The average age of plant has gone up, but it’s not the end of the world,” Mr. Arrick says. “Volume pressure has relieved some of the need for plant updates, at least for inpatient beds. Everybody is waiting to see where volume goes, and people are being cautious with big capital projects right now.”“

via http://www.beckershospitalreview.com/

The Cost to Retrofit Existing Hospitals will be Too Expensive

Knowing that the capital for new hospitals won’t be there until the healthcare reform unfolds then healthcare systems would have to attempt to retrofit this proposed patient room experience in existing environments. Trying to retrofit an existing patient room with this technology would be extremely costly and require extended downtime to implement.  For example, the typical cost to implement a simple wall mounted PC costs $2k – $5k and requires a patient room to be down for a whole day.  The technology pictured below is highly unlikely to implemented in a day and at a cost that the healthcare system could absorb.


While these technological concepts are impressive to look at and discuss, the reality is that they won’t happen any time soon.  Almost a decade ago I walked through a patient room of the future from a major EMR vendor and just now are some of those concepts now being implemented in hospitals. Keep the good ideas coming and hopefully healthcare will eventually get the ideal patient care environment.