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Traditional waiting rooms to become history, as future GP building design takes shape

18.11.2019

The traditional doctors’ waiting area is set to become a thing of the past as primary care adopts new technology – with outside seating and digital walls becoming familiar sights for patients over the next decade.

In a 2030 primary healthcare centre, patients will check-in on screen then use time in the centre’s garden, self-monitoring glass pods or in other areas to work, browse, read or research – until they are called to see their doctor via a smart phone app. These features are part of our project to explore surgery design of the future. 

The building will be designed around both remote video consulting and face-to-face appointments, incorporating point-of-care diagnostics so patients make fewer journeys for further tests. Digital media throughout the building will help staff share information and patients to feel calm. Patients will also be able to access NHS health apps on tablets, while a ‘check out’ screen will automatically send their appointment and prescription details to mobile devices.

Our project looked at how primary care’s growing use of technology will shift the way its buildings are designed and laid out – with the ambitions of the NHS Long Term Plan likely to influence the way primary care buildings look, feel and operate for the patients and staff by 2030 and beyond.

Simon Gould, our Head of Development, said: “In the coming decades, surgery building design will have to reflect the way primary care is using technology. As elements like remote consultation and point of care diagnostics become more familiar, they will change the way GPs and their teams use their space. There’s huge opportunity for the building design to work with technology to help teams to be flexible.

“This specific design wouldn’t work everywhere: primary care premises must be right for the communities they serve. But many of the principles reflect the experiences the NHS wants us all to have as patients.

“By the time we get to 2030, this initial design may be old news. But today, we hope it at least acts as a starting point for conversations, ideas and innovation: how will primary care, tech and design combine?”

We commissioned the design after exploring some of the key technologies already being adopted by primary care. The design forecasts that future healthcare buildings will have diagnostic wings with MRI scanner, CT (computerized tomography) and even artificial intelligence technology capabilities, to support primary care in offering a greater range of services closer to home. 

Further innovative design will see external consulting rooms where at the touch of a button the glass can be made opaque for privacy, smaller consulting rooms for video appointments and shared examination and treatment areas to make the most effective use of space.

The project set out to explore the designs that would be needed to help the NHS Long-Term Plan deliver. The Long Term Plan seeks by 2023 to provide easier access to general practice through use of technology and a broader range of professionals working in primary care. 

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