What to expect from the hospital of the future, from 8 CIOs, innovation chiefs

Mariah Muhammad – Friday, January 27th, 2023

Hospitals and health systems accelerated their technology integration and digital transformation during the pandemic to best serve their communities. Many organizations see the shift to digital continuing to affect hospital strategy in the next decade.

Becker’s asked health system leaders: Question: What will hospitals and health systems look like in 10 years? What will be different and what will be the same?

The executives featured in this article are all speaking at Becker’s Healthcare 13th Annual Meeting April 3-6, 2023, at the Hyatt Regency in Chicago.

To learn more about this event, click here.

If you would like to join as a speaker, contact Mariah Muhammad at mmuhammad@beckershealthcare.com. For more information on sponsorship opportunities, contact Jessica Cole at jcole@beckershealthcare.com.

Michelle Stansbury. Vice President, IT Innovation of Houston Methodist: We’ve seen the incredible impact technology has had on healthcare for both patients and clinicians, and I think we’ll continue to see innovative ways technology will make the healthcare experience efficient and accessible for everyone. From creature comforts like Alexa and Siri-like voice technology and design elements that make simple tasks like lighting and temperature control hands-free, we’ll see more and more of these modern conveniences enter the hospital and clinic setting. 

At the same time, patients will have increased options to create their own ‘hospital at home’ so they can monitor conditions with help from wearables and remote, continuous monitoring technology that will ultimately create better outcomes. As we continue to build our smart hospital of the future set to open in 2025 which focuses on improving the patient experience, we’re thinking about the next century of innovation. Despite the changes we will see with technology, one thing remains true — the patient is our top priority, and we will design the hospital of the future and the health system of the future with our patients in mind.

Donna Roach. CIO of the University of Utah Health (Salt Lake City): By 2033, I believe there will be fewer hospitals and health systems, maybe the same number of beds, but fewer facilities. The academic medical center will continue to provide quaternary care to the communities they serve while serving as the major training site for clinicians, which will also increase in number. Large health systems will expand their service lines that bring a high level of value — financially and clinically (more emphasis on the financial). A greater reliance on health system ambulatory services will continue and the 2020 external disruptors we saw in entering the market will have exited. Health systems will also have several digital touchpoints to attract consumers virtually.

Eric Smith. Senior Vice President and Chief Digital Officer, Memorial Hermann Health System (Houston): Given the significant focus on consumerism and digital enablement in healthcare today, 10 years from now, patients will be guided through their care journey in a completely different way. A higher level of ‘touchless’ interaction and digital guides, coupled with more personalization — care that is specifically tailored to meet each patient’s unique needs — will translate to a more seamless and convenient experience for patients and providers alike. 

Think personalized messages on the TV in your hospital room, and room temperature, food selection and lighting levels all automated based on your personal preferences. And, thanks to all of the digital advances and greater efficiencies in care delivery, caregivers will have more time and capacity to focus on humanizing every experience and providing more compassionate care. Finally, care is going to be more proactive than it is today because we will have greatly enhanced access to our own health information with data that is personalized and actionable. We’ll be able to partner with our providers like never before to better manage our overall health.

Karen Murphy, PhD, RN. Vice President and Chief Innovation Officer of Geisinger (Danville, Pa.): Over the past two decades, there has been a significant shift from inpatient to outpatient care. As we advance our work in areas such as hospital at home, patients needing less-acute care will remain at home. Driven by worsening workforce shortages, innovation and digital transformation will accelerate. In 10 years, many traditional inpatient services will be leveraging new technologies, including artificial intelligence. Not only will there be virtual nursing, but there will also be robots delivering patient supplies and medications. 

Inpatient surgical suites will be reserved for only the most multidisciplinary complex surgeries. Contemporary operating rooms will look more like spaceships; while humans will still perform surgery, there will be guidance and observation by artificial intelligence. 

Finally, what will stay the same is the necessary human element of healing. We will still need nurses, doctors, library technicians and radiology technicians. They will be a precious resource. Hopefully, we can leverage our digital transformation while preserving the human touch for when our patients and families are in need. We will never replace the healing power of holding a hand or giving a hug. That will never change.

Thomas Maddox, MD. Vice President of Digital Products and Innovation of BJC HealthCare / Washington University School of Medicine (St. Louis): The shift from inpatient to ambulatory care will define the next decade. As our technology allows us to follow our patients to our homes, the care teams and processes will follow. Hospitals will become the place for critically ill patients and, I suspect, indigent patients who don’t have a home in which to receive care. 

Ginny Torno. Administrative Director of Innovation and IT Clinical, Ancillary, Research Systems of Houston Methodist (Texas): In 10 years, successful hospitals will have more intelligent automation in place and provide multi-channel service and communication methods to both patients and employees. More patient care will be done in an outpatient or home care setting than we see today. However, there will always be procedures that require patients to come into the hospital. There will still be quality, compliance, and financial metrics that must be tracked and reported. We are starting to see a shift to more of a consumer focus in healthcare, and that trend will continue over the next 10 years.

Saad Chaudhry, JD. CIO of Luminis Health (Annapolis, Md.): In 10 years, close to 20 percent of the country’s population will be at or above the age of retirement. This means there will be exponentially greater demand for geriatric care across the U.S. And geriatric care requires a combination of many specialties to work together. Furthermore, this population also tends to be at the highest risk of infection, which makes things complicated when you have viral outbreaks. To not be overwhelmed by this, hospitals and health systems will need to start building out their infrastructure today. 

And this can no longer only be brick-and-mortar hospital towers of years past; they will need to invest in modern modes of care — beyond just telehealth and remote monitoring, this will include robust ambulatory networks with easy and intuitive access methods, hospital at home with the mobile care team and urgent care component and frictionless transitions of care. All of this will need to be wrapped up in a layer of interoperability where the burden of information transfer rests anywhere but the patient.

Darrell Bodnar. CIO of North Country Healthcare (Whitefield, N.H.): Ten years is a very long time. Perhaps some of this will be more wishful thinking than reality. First, I believe the migration away from brick-and-mortar healthcare will continue. The virtual, mobile, hospital-at-home, and telehealth platforms we currently have will be far more advanced. The combination of data normalization and sharing, systems and platform standardization, technology advancements, and payment models will provide streamlined care anytime from anywhere. 

The ambiguity around coverage and cost will be less of a concern but probably not completely eliminated. I believe the convergence of healthcare providers and payers will continue to grow and accelerate to reduce the uncontrolled costs of healthcare costs we are currently dealing with, as well as wrap care delivery around standards, best practices, and quality metrics. 

Consumers will have many more opportunities and knowledge at their disposal to make educated decisions about their care, including cost, availability, quality, and consumer satisfaction scores. Automated predictive analytics will be mainstream and combined with progressive consumer health monitoring systems, will provide advanced notice of health events as well as better chronic disease management. Patient compliance will improve exponentially, with medication compliance becoming a thing of the past.  

Regular health maintenance processes that are currently plagued by legacy technology barriers will also go the way of the dodo. Automation will be embedded in every healthcare process, permitting clinicians to do what they do best, care for patients. The current EMR model needs to be completely overhauled and will, perhaps with our current EMR vendors, but possibly by one of the many emerging innovators not strapped to existing outdated design and architecture.

I still believe there will be continued advancement in technologies like genomics, AI, robotics, 3D printing, patient sensors, nanotechnology, virtual reality, and mRNA technologies. I believe CRISPR advancements may make it one of the most important medical advancements of our time if it isn’t already. Who knows, if we don’t remove the bureaucracy surrounding healthcare, we may end up with only minimal advancements and progress. I applaud the innovators trying to make a difference and pushing their way into and through an entrenched establishment that is our current healthcare reality. It will be very interesting to watch healthcare over the next 10 years.