Is the hospital of the future here today?

Transforming the hospital business model

In 2040, while there will still be a need for some hospitals, most of the care delivery will shift away from the hospital setting, driven by technological advances in clinical care, value-based payments, and scientific discovery (personalized medicine, genomics, DNA sequencing, for instance).

Hospitals were up against the wall due to COVID-19, and while several hospitals were challenged by this unprecedented crisis, a few have already started to act like the hospital of the future, particularly with regard to virtual health and use of technology.

Three main themes emerged on how hospitals will transform by 2040:

Theme 1. Hospitals will have transformed business models

According to the experts, hospitals will pick a path and become one of the following:

  • Specialty care operators/focused factories for complex procedures: In 2040, the overall market will have significantly fewer hospital beds with most hospitals becoming focused factories catering to procedures for critical care, complex, and specialized populations.
  • Health hubs: The hospital building would become a health hub and part of a larger system that offers outpatient, ambulatory, retail, virtual, and home services.
  • Hospital at home or virtual hospital: Care, including monitoring, could be delivered outside the building in either a hospital at home or virtual hospital setting. During the COVID-19 pandemic several hospitals quickly adopted virtual capabilities.

Theme 2. Care delivery models will be disrupted by ubiquitous data and technology

The crowdsourced experts said that hospitals will be both “high-tech and high-touch,” with connected interoperable data and systems, streamlined operations, and efficient clinical care delivery. Technology will be used for monitoring, prediction, and care delivery. They also identified artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning as the emerging technologies most likely to transform the industry in the next 10 years.


Theme 3. Smart spaces and digitally enabled hospitality will be essential

The experts were unanimous in envisioning smart spaces and the integration of digital technologies into every aspect of hospital space, transforming not only the physical structure but also providing a hotel-like personalized experience.  Modular spaces will be part of hospital design so that services can be scaled up or down based on surges in demand. Virtual offerings will be a seamless part of the experience for the patient—data will always be available, clinicians will always be accessible, and treatment will always be delivered—whether in their own home or in a hospital. Miniaturized, self-contained, and mobile equipment will support the ability to be modular or deliver care in the home.

Regulatory levers and rapid, agile decisions have enabled hospitals to quickly transform and respond to the COVID-19 pandemic. Executives who are now entering the recovery phase of the pandemic can take steps toward how they will ensure that their organizations will thrive. One of the most important steps will be to sustain changes made to operate as a hospital of the future. Executives should consider how they can continue to build upon the acceleration of innovation today and plan for the future.

Hospitals had to shift their investments and priorities rapidly to respond to the pandemic. To sustain innovation, they now should continue to invest in the following:

  • Data and interoperability capabilities
  • Virtual health and digital solutions
  • Offerings to enable the shift of patients out of the hospital
  • Improving consumer experience and meeting their expectations

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