• Article
  • July 19, 2017

5 Ways the Patient Experience Will Change in the Future

While brick-and-mortar facilities will still be relevant, the future is all about digital transformation.

John Brownstein
John Brownstein, Ph.D.

John Brownstein, Ph.D., chief innovation officer at Boston Children's Hospital, spends his days working to build the hospital of the future. As CIO, this entrepreneur and Harvard Medical School professor focuses on building new technologies, collaborating with industry and deploying a comprehensive digital health platform. All to enhance the health care experience for patients, families and clinicians.

Children's Hospitals Today caught up with Brownstein to see what the hospital of the future—and the future of children's health care—looks like to him.

What does the hospital of the future look like to you?
It's all about digital transformation. Care, of course, will continue in brick and mortar because that's vital to the patient experience. But we can start to think about the patient experience in a much broader set of steps.

  1. We think about the ways patients first interact with medical information online and how they derive awareness pre-disease. For example, how do they potentially interact with an online version of a physician? And that can be an artificial intelligence (AI)-driven individual or a real-life individual. So how does someone get the best possible access to information as he or she thinks about treatments for a disease? And how does someone begin to interact with health care systems from a smartphone, Alexa or a wearable?

  2. Then we must think about how to use on-demand tools to help patients get to their health care appointments. Once they're in their appointment, how do we transform the experience in the waiting room so there are certain types of data collected early on to create seamless engagement with a physician?

  3. How do we transform the electronic medical record (EMR) so it's not a device where a physician has his or her back to the patient while entering information? How do you turn the EMR into a companion and an augmentation device for a physician as he or she interacts with patients? 

  4. How do we bring in the know-how of the hospital to help the flow of that patient, whether it's around predicting bed utilization and capacity, or how we use tools to forecast what might happen to a patient based on predictive analytics? How do we start transforming intensive care units to make the most of their data? How do we use machine learning to change the ways radiologists interpret images?

  5. Then, once patients have been cared for, how do we take all that know-how and empower patients so when they leave the hospital, they have the best information about how to take care of themselves? Or how do we give patients optimized devices so there's a direct stream of information flowing back to the health care system?

How do we allow that continuous dialogue between patients and physicians and produce data that helps patients do a better job of caring for themselves? How do we use on-demand tools to help patients get care at home post-discharge? And in the end, it goes back to that healthy patient and how he or she uses technology to do a better job monitoring baseline health.

About John Brownstein

  • Worked at Boston Children's Hospital for nearly 13 years
  • Chief innovation officer since 2015
  • Heads the Innovation & Digital Health Accelerator

What are your top priorities right now?
Of course, creating the digital experience for patients is a top priority. But we recognize there's a huge amount of great insight that comes from the variety of people who work at the hospital. So we focus on creating an environment that's excited about coming up with ideas, bringing them to scale and bringing them to market.

What advice would you give to other children's hospitals looking to innovate and build a hospital of the future?
It doesn't require a huge amount of resources. There are plenty of partnership opportunities and interest from the venture capital community and from various types of government entities, local and state. For example, Massachusetts has an amazing investment in digital health, so you can gain a lot just from partnerships.

Also, pediatric hospitals are coming together in many different ways. One example is Impact Pediatric Health. And there are many opportunities for shared resourcing when hospitals come together to exchange best practices and ideas.

Are there technologies out there now that you think will be the norm in children's health care in the near future?
Virtual engagement between physicians and patients is going to be the norm. It's not going to be called virtual visits, it's just going to be visits. It's not going to be telemedicine, it's just going to be medicine.

Just like when you go to the ATM, you don't say, "I'm going to do some internet banking right now." It's the same idea. I just can't imagine that wouldn't be the norm for everyone. Machine learning, or AI-driven care, is going to be way more commonplace than we recognize. Augmented decision-making is going to be the norm.

What keeps you up at night?
Honestly, there's just too much opportunity around. Given the data now being unlocked in health care and the computational power, this is where really exciting things happen. It's just a matter of how you pick and choose the most exciting projects because it's limitless. It's such a great time to be in this space.

Learn about the Innovation & Digital Health Accelerator at Boston Children's.

Send questions or comments to magazine@childrenshospitals.org.