Futureward is an ongoing research project that examines how to best design critical care facilities to accommodate emerging, technology-based models of care.
New models of care
Currently, the medical industry is facing a number of pressures that necessitate the investigation of new models of care. The aging baby-boomer population, lengthening average lifespan, and densification of city centers all factor into the need to create new, more efficient ways of providing critical care.
A new, quickly-emerging model of care is called the Electronic ICU (or eICU), which involves creating a virtual network of physicians, specialists and other caregivers that are available full time, no matter if the patient is in critical care, in a standard hospital room or at home after being discharged.
The CICC’s Virtual Ward project is a successful example of how this model is effective in reducing readmission rates.
Where it takes place
The figure above illustrates how an eICU creates a distributed network of care. However, a hospital is not a bubble diagram; this care must always be administered in a physical space.
The Futureward project hopes to establish the best practices involved in building these physical places, so as to make the emerging eICU models as effective as possible.
Though the model occurs in many spaces, one must be addressed first. The primary goal of Futureward is to design the critical care ward, which will be the hub of care, communications and informatics that enables the rest of the model. With the ward established, the other spaces will have the support the need to be properly investigated.
The eICU model is unique in that it must be enabled through communication technology. While current models of care may be enhanced by pagers, phones, and computer networks, it once successfully functioned without them. The eICU model, however, had communication technology built in and cannot function without it.
Given that the eICU model is predicated on comm tech, a project investigating best eICU design practices has a responsbility to take into account expected developments in comm tech fields.
We have investiaged what technologies might be employed at Futureward so as to maximize the effectiveness of the eICU model. We have identified specific sectors that are currently reaching maturity; these are in development now, will likely be deployable in two years, and will likely be commonplace- to the point of commoditzation- in ten years.
These are developments that are largely inevitable and should be planned for, lest the medical industry be delayed in an opportunity to raise the standard of available care.
Futureward is not intended to be be a simple design exercise. To that end, the CICC has formed industry partnerships (as noted to the right) with companies that are leading the development of each of the three technologies that will form the foundation of the project.
These technologies by themselves are very atomic in nature- they are most effective when combined and then put to use in specific design interventions. On the righthand side of the poster are concrete examples of how these technologies may be used to create a better eICU for patients and caregivers alike.