Ravideep Singh, Associate Director, Creative Designer Architects presents key post-pandemic healthcare design imperatives which will help healthcare infrastructure be better prepared for future trials
The onset of the global pandemic has challenged the existing healthcare systems and infrastructure. While doctors and healthcare practitioners across the globe are changing the way they approach healthcare, the viral outbreak has also led to changes in the design of hospitals and medical facilities. Some of these changes may be temporary to accommodate the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic; a few fundamental changes will help healthcare infrastructure be better prepared for future trials.
Typically, sites for developing healthcare facilities are selected based on factors such as financial feasibility, patient catchment, service area assessments, etc. In a post-pandemic world, it has become crucial for hospitals to have ‘flex’ facilities. Flex facilities like vacant areas or adjacent hospitals nearby will allow hospitals to use surrounding areas to accommodate the increase in patient-care requirements during unprecedented outbreaks or pandemics by multiplying beds or setting up Alternate Care Facilities. These spaces will also facilitate seamless access to critical hospital functionalities such as the ORs, high-intensity radiation equipment, etc., resulting in enhanced care delivery and serving a much larger community.
Currently, the hospital planning trends tend to gravitate towards a cost-effective model to reduce the upfront investments. There is a pressing need for developing scenarios during the financial planning stage that incorporates a healthcare facility’s capabilities to respond to unanticipated circumstances. While make-shift medical facilities can help mitigate the high influx of patients, spatial flexibility, segregation and planning will be the most critical factors driving healthcare design in the coming years.
During a viral or infectious outbreak like COVID-19, it is critical for healthcare facilities to ensure the segregation of infectious, non-infectious, and to create a forward triage area within the building. Considering the need to isolate patients, healthcare planners and stakeholders should simulate experimental zoning scenarios and develop strategies for an effective response. These scenarios could attempt to isolate areas meant for infectious and non-infectious patients while allowing the healthcare staff to operate and cater to all zones seamlessly. Efficient planning and simulation of these zones in such a manner allows for easy implementation and execution of workflows in any scenario, thereby equipping the hospital to adapt and respond promptly and effectively.
During the last year, the Indian telehealth industry witnessed a massive boost. Online consultations and e-pharmacies have gained the trust of thousands of patients across the country. Five per cent of India’s doctors are based in cities and urban areas, while over 68 per cent of the Indian population resides in rural areas. It is believed that telehealth is the only plausible medium to bridge the gap between the urban and rural populations’ access to quality healthcare. Telehealth is making healthcare more equitable and accessible to the commoners while streamlining quality healthcare delivery for the future — anticipated to be low on physical infrastructure and heavily reliant on technology.
To successfully enable and implement accessible and user-friendly telehealth practices, healthcare providers and designers must work in tandem to facilitate infrastructure and technological integration. During the design phase of medical infrastructure, scenarios and strategic planning are essential. With improving technologies and the growing demand for quality healthcare consultations, digital interventions in medical care are inevitable. However, careful planning and mitigating the transition to ensure coherency is critical.
As architects at CDA, we understand the criticality of designing adaptable, sustainable, and responsive hospitals, focusing on patient care and experience. With a commitment to improving the healthcare scenario in India, we are optimistic that with architects working in partnership with doctors, researchers, policymakers and tech giants, an evolved healthcare ecosystem awaits.