The clinics are flanked by an atrium, a cafe and a library with an outdoor deck. Their main concourses are dotted with furnished alcoves. One thing they don't have: designated waiting rooms.
That's because patients at the clinics in the Health Transformation Building at Dell Medical School, part of UT Health Austin, can either go straight to their rooms, if available, or if they arrive early, to any of those decidedly non-institutional spaces, where in the future they'll be buzzed via a smartphone app. From the get-go, each patient's experience is markedly different than what's come to be expected: sitting in an uncomfortable waiting room chair, reading dated magazines and listening intently to be called.
The clinics' design may be among the more futuristic in the country, but it points to a practice sweeping all sorts of healthcare systems: using technology to facilitate a better patient experience, rather than emphasizing cosmetic changes such as waterfalls and chandeliers. Whether it's better heating, ventilation and air conditioning, large screens in patient rooms, or comfortable places to wait for an appointment, design and technology are playing a big role in patient care—and not just in the strictly medical aspects of it but in the environmental and emotional aspects as well.
"Patient experience is at the heart of healthcare," said Jason Wolf, president of the Beryl Institute and founder and president of the Patient Experience Institute. "This idea of consumerism makes technology important, but technology for the sake of technology is the demise of it," he said. "When it's purposeful, it becomes a wellness tool, a mean by which we can reduce readmission and give people greater ownership over their care."