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The Hospital Room Of The Future: Flexible, Media Rich, Very Shiny [Slideshow]

"Patient Room 2020" is designed to heal patients, and make it easy for family and doctors to care for them.

What will the future of in-patient health care look like? Perhaps something like the "Patient Room 2020," a project that NXT, Clemson University, and Birdtree Design are trying to bring to market in the next 10 years.

The virtual prototype reveals a sleek multi-function space filled with light and fully loaded with such technology touch points as the "Patient Ribbon," an all-in-one device that monitors vital signs, administers medical gases, and contains light controls and a digital media center. Though it's easy to get lost in the possibilities of the technology, Tom Jennings, founder and principal of NXT, the nonprofit innovation firm funding the project, says it's less about Hollywood-style futuristic bells and whistles and more about fostering more personal and proactive care for patients and their families.

According to Jennings, Patient Room 2020 has been in the works for a while. It's the latest iteration of the Patient Room of the Future project originally commissioned by the Department of Defense in 2006. But Dina Battisto, associate professor of Clemson's School of Architecture, said the health care industry needs this kind of innovation, effective immediately.

The room is constructed as a plug-and-play environment.

Battisto asserts that faculty and students from Clemson University's Architecture + Health have been designing, building, and evaluating multiple patient room iterations for the last eight years. Now, she says, they are beginning to build working prototypes and test them to see if their designs can perform in real-life applications. "When you look at a typical hospital room, the technology and instrumentation is very chaotic and not designed to integrate," adds David Ruthven of Birdtree Design. Patient Room 2020 turned that idea on its head. "We wanted to approach the room holistically," he says.

As such, the room is constructed as a plug-and-play environment in which customizable, prefabricated components integrate all aspects of care. The Patient Ribbon, for example, is a digital, silent, flat screen headboard that captures vital signs, houses gases, and holds the controls for all forms of lighting in the room. Ruthven says it's possible that it will be the first component to be integrated in existing hospitals in the next five years. A media center at the foot of the bed facilitates collaboration between caregivers, patients, and visitors, and provides connections to multimedia entertainment and hospital information.

While most of the medical care is conducted within the patient room, several key functions for patients, staff, and visitors occur at the entry to the space. Namely, the Staff Resource Station features sliding doors made from smart glass technology and includes digital alerts for patient allergies, food restrictions, or special conditions.

The orientation and location of digital elements in the room is intended to ergonomically empower a patient to make decisions and control nearly every aspect of their environment without much physical exertion. The bathroom is designed to provide patients and visitors with a safe, restorative environment with digital shower controls, ambient heart grab bars, a waterproof spa interface, and water conservation features. And in order to create a proper space for visitors without expanding the depth of the structural bay, the space is cantilevered out beyond the edge of the building.

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  • Laarch

    It is exciting to see someone taking some chances in the healthcare sector.  Most of the design you see in hospitals looks like it was done in the 1990's.  I would be really curious to know what the structural bay size is?

  • DR

    The design utilizes a 32' x 32' structural bay.  But you could take it down to 30' x 30' and still include many of the design features.

  • DUB

    is fantastic and exciting to see the future of the patient room focusing more
    on health vs. hospitality. Understanding the trend in healthcare dollars
    shifting from the hotel environment to a more proactive team/patient/staff care
    environment is evident in this design. With technology leading the way in every
    field these days it is so great to see a design that has fully stepped out of
    the box and comfort levels of its competitors, pushing the envelope to better
    the architectural profession, the healthcare environment, and the welfare of
    the general population. Great work!

  • TJ

    I just went through a horrible experience in a hospital, where I was stuck in a room with another patient.  It was loud and chaotic, which made it impossible to sleep.  I would have LOVED to have had a room like this to recover in.  I wonder if this will ever get built in a real hospital?

  • Katie Dahl

    Healthcare design in America has been stuck in a dated look based on some preconceived notions of what is a healing space should look like; this is clearly challenging those concepts in a good way. This is not just about design, but also addressing and changing real problems in existing healthcare environments. 

  • Doctor D

    Finally, a room that doesn't use fake wood paneling everywhere.  What a novel idea, a hospital room that looks clean and organized.

  • Doctor D

    I have shown this room to many people I work with, including nurses and medical professionals, and they all love the concept.  The main goal of going to the hospital is to heal, and as a medical professional I can see numerous ways in which this design would help me do my job more effectively.  Comments like this come from someone who obviously has not spent a lot of time in a hospital...