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Healthcare Infrastructure: When bigger isn’t always better

Hybrid healthcare, shifting populations, patient empowerment – when it comes to advances in healthcare infrastructure, it’s time to start small.

Going mobile with telemedicine

“Digital disruption” is now an everyday phrase, and it’s one that is just as applicable to healthcare as it is anywhere else.

Sharing his experiences of this, Brian de Francesca opened the Healthcare Infrastructure Forum on the first day of Arab Health with one word: small.

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Having worked on numerous large hospital projects in the past, he cited digital disruption as just one of the reasons for the rise of telemedicine and the move away from larger hospitals.

“I was asked to consult on building a 1,500-bed hospital,” he explained, “but no place needs a 1,500-bed hospital. There’s too much potential for it to become unsafe and end up providing a lower quality of care.”

In short: the bigger the hospital is, the riskier it is – for patients, doctors and even investors. Currently 70% of hospital spending goes to chronically ill patients, but with a cultural shift to care streams for long term conditions moving to the home and in the community, aided by digital developments, while day surgeries continue to become more common for even complex surgeries, large hospitals won’t operate at full occupancy. Demand will fall, and instead they will see inefficiencies in costs and processes. 

So what is the answer?

A hybrid approach to healthcare

As care streams diversify from being hospital-based to the home and wider community, we’re seeing an increased need for a hybrid approach.

It’s more complicated than the simple “digitisation” of healthcare, as Sophie Smith, Co-Founder and CEO, Nabta Health, Dubai, UAE, discussed in her Innov8 talk at Arab Health. She shared why a hybrid approach to healthcare is so important – and indeed what a hybrid approach is.

As well as changing what is available, digital advances are changing how patients access their healthcare. Patients are becoming more informed and more empowered; they are more connected; they want to ‘shop around’ for the best option available to them.

It means we need to evolve from traditional, provider-led healthcare to a patient-centric approach. What it doesn’t mean, Sophie cautioned, is moving to a completely digital approach. When it comes to traditional and digital, it’s important to avoid falling into an “either/or” trap. Instead, we need to combine the two into a hybrid approach to align with the priorities of patients.

Population shifts: the need for cultural change

Patient priorities are changing not only thanks to technological advances, but due to changes into the socio-economic environment.

We know that the population continues to grow, and we’re seeing people live longer. Ss a result healthcare needs are changing – so what will hospitals look like in the future? If infrastructure doesn’t adapt to the growing movement towards a hybrid approach to healthcare, we know that purely ‘traditional’, larger hospitals being left behind.

And it’s not just people who are changing. So, too, are the types of events healthcare professionals need to respond to. From disaster response requirements to rapid response testing for viruses like to current novel Coronavirus, healthcare needs to be more agile than ever, and hospitals need to do more than embracing digital adoption or ‘going small’ – what about going mobile?

In the Healthcare Infrastructure Forum, Radwan Halabi, Export Director and Masood Almughanni, Head of Medical Department, Naffco, both explored the mobile hospital in their session. There have bene considerable developments when it comes to mobile hospitals in recent years. From automated, self-disinfecting vehicles to extendable, connectable mobile units with their own waiting areas, X-ray units, pharmacies and secure drug storage, the mobile hospital of the future is flexible – it will continue to adapt.

As Pedro Gargaté of ARC said in his session on day one of Arab Health: What’s most important is that we “design for today, plan for tomorrow.”

Don't forget to take a look through our Arab Health special edition of Omnia Health for even more from the industry's leaders and experts!

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