Assessing COVID-19’s Impact on Hospital Design

January 7, 2021

Before the pandemic, hospital executives and managers involved in designing new hospitals sought to improve the efficiency of existing care pathways. Now, their top priority is to rethink those pathways entirely. The shape of healthcare is being reconsidered everywhere, and that process has major implications for the way hospitals will look in future.

That might sound drastic, but think of the changes the pandemic has already forced through. The Chinese built a hospital in 10 days, while in many countries medical consultations shifted online. Meanwhile, existing hospitals buckled under the sudden, immense strain, according to The Guardian.

Pictures flashed around the world of Covid-19 patients sitting in their cars outside a hospital in Naples. Non-Covid patients have seen their potentially life-saving treatments postponed indefinitely.

None of this is surprising, says hospital architect Thomas Schinko of Vasconi Architectes in Paris, because the world’s richest countries have all but eliminated contagion from their hospitals, infectious diseases no longer being the biggest killer there. As a result, health systems are completely unadapted to this kind of disease.

The pandemic has accelerated some trends, such as the one to a hospital without walls – the hospital conceived as a digitally connected community rather than a circumscribed physical space. The twin pillars of digital health are electronic health records, which allow patient information to be shared across health systems, and telehealth, which allows patients and physicians to communicate at distance.

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