Emerging technologies in healthcare and their impact on healthcare design

By: Melanie Viquez, PMP, FACHE, EDAC

Integrating emerging technologies in healthcare design is reshaping the blueprint of patient care environments. From augmented reality assisting in surgical planning to smart hospitals leveraging the Internet of Things for real-time monitoring, the impact of technology on healthcare design is not just revolutionary; it’s changing the landscape of how we approach wellness and medical care.

Several books and articles explore the impact of these technologies on our healthcare system and, in turn, on the Transition and Activation Planning industry. Two recommended authors that have studied the evolution of healthcare facility design since 1965 and the impact the technological trends in the environment have had on design are Stephen Verderber and David J. Fine’s Healthcare Architecture in an Era of Radical Transformation. The authors provide insight into the forces that have shaped recent hospital and design styles and possible future developments. Another recommendation is Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow, written by Yuval Noah Harari. The healthcare landscape will likely undergo significant changes, so healthcare systems must change equally. Specifically, it examines the evolutionary impact of humans maximizing technology to be more god-like.

Below is a summary of how a few innovative advancements have enhanced healthcare and transformed aspects of the healthcare design industry.

Telemedicine and Telehealth

The concept of telemedicine dates back to 1920 with a Radio Doctor who called it “teledactyl.” The COVID-19 Pandemic has pushed healthcare consultations, monitoring, and education into full implementation. This type of technology, as seen at the University of Minnesota Health Clinics and Surgery Center, facilitates different models of care, which has generated support for retrofitting current spaces into Digital Med Rooms, Exam Rooms, and an Integrated Modular System concept. 

While this technology can reduce the physical infrastructure, it has uncovered a change management component that includes job descriptions specific to tech-enabled positions and environmental requirements, such as telemedicine rooms, IT infrastructure, and noise masking to support patient privacy. 

Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning

AI and machine learning have taken off in all areas of healthcare. Using algorithms and computational models to compare a massive number of prior examples assists healthcare staff in analyzing data, making predictions, and automating decision-making. 

Already, we have seen how technology improves the patient’s experience by providing personalized care and support. For example, AI-powered chatbots can provide real-time support and advice, while virtual assistants can help patients manage their healthcare needs and appointments. AI can also help improve patient outcomes by predicting and preventing adverse events.

Technology, for nurses, presents an opportunity to streamline their work by automating routine responsibilities like medication administration, charting, and documentation. This automation can liberate valuable time for nurses, enabling them to concentrate on more intricate tasks and deliver personalized care to patients. Additionally, AI has the potential to assist nurses in identifying high-risk patients, allowing for early intervention and the prevention of complications.

Internet of Things (IoT):

The Internet of Things technology involves connecting physical devices and sensors to the Internet to collect and exchange data. Functionality must be carefully planned from a design perspective to accommodate flexibility to accommodate the growth and demand over the network. Along with the network challenges of data collection, there are challenges in communication as well. A study published in the Journal of Electrical and Computer Engineering showed that wireless channels often have high and unreliable distortion rates. The inability to communicate data reliably, marked by excessive retransmissions, was identified as an issue and merited further investigation of IoT devices.

HCA Healthcare uses RFID tags to track medical equipment and supplies to improve its asset-tracking management capabilities. The system allows them to track inventory, reduce waste, and ensure the right equipment is always available. St. Joseph’s Healthcare system in New Jersey has implemented an IoT solution to track the location of patients and staff within the facilities. This has helped the hospital improve patient flow, reduce times, and optimize staffing levels. 

Access to the patient portal has improved patient flow and wait times, optimizing staffing and resource allocation. It begs the question of needing elaborate check-in and waiting room spaces.

Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR)

AR overlays digital information onto the real world, while VR creates immersive, computer-generated environments. At MetroHealth Hospital in Cleveland, Ohio, AR/VR is used to build new processes, confirm equipment selection, and reinforce change management direction.

Simulation spaces are becoming practical and necessary to teach and make specialized services available in remote locations. Through virtual reality, doctors and their teams can now watch a 3D monitor when performing surgical procedures. Leveraging video conferencing, physicians and even surgeons work on people thousands of miles away. In rural areas, this ensures increased trust in the local healthcare system and more funding for local health services for a remote patient population. 


Although there was initial apprehension about entrusting robots with surgical procedures and logistical tasks in healthcare, their widespread integration is now evident. These robots are pivotal in automating routine tasks, enabling healthcare professionals to dedicate their expertise to more intricate responsibilities. Examples include the da Vinci system facilitating surgeries, the CyberKnife ensuring precise radiation therapy for tumors, and the TUG system efficiently transporting medications, meals, and materials within hospitals, alleviating staff from strenuous physical demands. Notably, in 2015, UCSF at Mission Bay pioneered the largest fleet of TUG robots, spanning an area equivalent to nearly three football fields. Healthcare facilities continue to analyze the use and cost-saving benefits strategically, as well as the system design, the flow path layout design, and operational issues, including the dispatching, routing, and scheduling of the system.

Evolving Standards

We have briefly touched on a few emerging technologies and have seen the potential; however, keeping pace with these advancements involves grasping the ongoing evolution of standards and regulatory requirements. In 2026, the Facility Guidelines Institute (FGI) will add language and a new section that asks designers to address technology integration for any new and renovations. It will also require the Environment of Care to develop and maintain an integrated technology narrative to support user experience, operational workflow, building systems, and infrastructure.

The Environmental Standards Council (ESC) recognizes how impossible it is to predict future innovations and, therefore, proposes the following goals to guide healthcare projects:

  • Establish the foundation for building a coordinated technology strategy for each project with a scope and scale appropriate for the individual project as an integral part of the Functional Program
  • Create the baseline text for this ever-evolving design influence, allowing the section to expand and evolve in step with technological advancements
  • Allow for appendix text to be added, providing goals and guardrails for project teams to reference and help inform and shape their strategy

What’s next

The impact of these emerging technologies on healthcare design is substantial, requiring considerations for infrastructure, connectivity, data security, and the creation of flexible and adaptable spaces to accommodate ongoing technological advancements. Additionally, a focus on patient-centered design remains crucial to ensure that these technologies enhance the overall patient experience and contribute to improved healthcare outcomes.


The State of Telehealth Before and After the COVID-19 Pandemic, Shaver, Julia MD, Prim Care. 2022 Dec; 49(4): 517–530. Published online 2022 Apr 25. doi: 10.1016/j.pop.2022.04.002

Technology & Its Impact of Health Outcomes and the Future of Healthcare Space, The Center for Health Design, Environmental Standards Council, November 2023

Naylor, C.D. (2018). On the prospects for a (deep) learning health care system. JAMA, 320(11) 1099-1100. https://doi.org/10.1001/jama.2018.11103

Internet of Things: Architectures, Protocols, and Applications, Sethi, Pallavi and Sarangi, Smruti R. Journal of Electrical and Computer Engineering, Volume 2017 | Article ID 9324035 | https://doi.org/10.1155/2017/9324035

“IoT in healthcare: Use cases and real-world examples,” Christianson, Pete, Last updated September 2023, https://telnyx.com/resources/iot-healthcare

“Telemedicine for healthcare: Capabilities, features, barriers, and applications,” Abid Haleem, Mohd Javaid, Ravi Pratap Singh, and Rajiv Sumanc, 2021 Jul 24, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8590973

Transportation Research Part E: Logistics and Transportation, 


Guidelines for the Design and Construction of Healthcare Facilities, Environmental Standards Council (ESC),2022