Humber River Regional Hospital: North America's First Digital Hospital

HRRH Aerial Rendering, from Canadian Architect

Canadian Architect announced today that HDR Inc., as part of Plenary Healthcare Partnerships (PHP) team began ground breaking in December for North America’s first fully digital hospital, the Humber River Regional Hospital (HRRH), where will automate all of the operational processes.

As the first fully digital hospital in North America, the hospital is designed to support the latest medical technology in a completely digital environment. Jerry Jeter, health-care principal at HDR, notes that, “although many hospitals have digital components, Humber River is the first hospital in North America to fully integrate and automate all of its processes; everything is done digitally.”  ~ Canadian Architect

This $1.75 billion facility sounds amazing. In the floor plans I counted at least 22 operating rooms. Patient control (their ability to modify the environment in which they stay) is a large factor in helping patients recover. The smart bed technology means (hopefully) that fewer machines are in the area, beeping and preventing the patient from resting comfortably. My one major concern is that patients are able to talk to the physicians themselves, and that all meetings aren’t online. The HRRH redevelopment website believes “It will allow care providers more time at the bedside, nurturing the personal interactions that form the basis of great hospital care.” There could be a steep learning curve for some patients using the interactive touch-screen kiosks, but since PHP completed 2 previous digital hospitals, HRRH benefits from their experience.

I’m blown away by the technology in the hospital, some old (pneumatic tubes for laboratory samples) and some new (Automated-Guided Vehicles that deliver supplies to units and clinics). It’s an amazing feat of science fiction happening in our hospitals now. (Of course when I think about science fiction, I also wonder what happens if the technology goes down – but that’s for a fictional story.)

However, despite the innovative push towards digital design, I’m disappointed in the architectural quality of the spaces. The best move is the outdoor gathering space, however it is so far removed from the patient suites, that they will likely never use it. While some of the gathering spaces on the main spine of the HRRH are oriented to naturally areas, main spaces like the cafeteria (from which patients can order custom food), and common seating areas in the corridors don’t offer the family or friends anywhere special to go while the patient rests or is in treatment.

I’m glad they’re using sustainable principles for the design of the facility. I’m disappointed they’re only aiming for LEED silver though. With something so technologically advanced, they could have gone further. I’d love to know just how automated the sustainable building systems are.

Since this hospital is a redevelopment of the existing HRRH, I hope they perform some EBD calculations from the existing building to the new facility, to determine if this truly helps patients have better recovery times.