In the media

Designing for an era of “homes-pitalisation”

By Eugene Canavan

Engineering Magazine

25 May 2023

In an ageing society where people are living longer, often with chronic or debilitating conditions that require complex medical interventions, what is the future of healthcare?

This article was first published in Engineering Magazine

Current national healthcare system models are designed to push patients toward hospitals and clinics for treatment. But as ageing populations burgeon, this is becoming both unviable and unsustainable.

Prevention is better than cure and, critically, technology must now work towards tackling one of the most pressing issues of our time: growing old, better. We live in a world where virtually every aspect of our lives is optimised by tech – from how we drive to the way we shop. However, from companion bots bolstering an ever-dwindling workforce of care workers to exoskeletons reinforcing age-eroded bones – the futuristic technologies mooted as being possibly the next best thing in health tech have done little to demonstrate how such innovations can be implemented meaningfully, at scale. In our bid to manage illnesses, halt ageing or even cheat death, designers must not lose sight of a better purpose to create technology that is truly accessible and can benefit all – not just the privileged few.

The future of healthcare lies not only within hospitals but in our homes. The tools for enabling this transition to home care monitoring, management and therapeutic treatment are, in fact, already here. Digitally connected homes and IoT have made independent living and preventative care possible. Motion sensors installed within the home environment which communicate with apps and AI platforms to determine changes in behaviour that might signify a medical emergency are increasingly being used. This type of innovation helps cut down on hospital admission rates and allows conditions to be treated conservatively before these become an issue.


Design solutions for healthcare tech – from diagnostics through to treatment – must be respectful of the innate human resistance to admit physical vulnerability. Evidence after all suggests that humans have biases of optimism often not conducive to health and well-being. Effective design is empathetic to these tensions, unpatronizing to the user and accessible. Self-diagnostic and monitoring devices have done this well compared to the other aspect of healthcare – such as basic pill administration – where innovation lacks. Taking medication still remains fiendishly difficult for those with shaky hands and poor sight, presenting significant everyday dangers. Tomorrow’s health tech needs to be sensitive to these practical and psychological dynamics, empowering and elevating human potential irrespective of ailment or ability.

Wearables are really starting to come to the fore equating to a much more comfortable, unintrusive and accurate way of garnering data for a clinical response. They will invariably play a critical part in at-home medical care in the future. For arrhythmia sufferers (it’s estimated that around 12 million people in the US will develop the condition that can lead to heart failure), conservative interventions often require patients to undergo ECG (electrocardiogram) testing for up to 72 continuous hours. But it’s conceivable that a wearable ECG vest, that looks like a standard t-shirt, embedded with printed electrodes situated beneath the fabric at points around the arm and waist, can allow continuous heart monitoring of the patient without impeding their daily routine or putting them off for wearing a medical device. Indeed, we prototyped such a product that incorporated “dry electrodes”, an accelerometer and a gyroscope to produce a deeper reading of recorded heart signals, feeding into an AI layer to determine irregularities in the heartbeats. A dashboard would allow clinicians to access and easily interpret the data to undertake relevant interventions in real-time. Discretion is key to such design. No one wants to draw attention to their affliction.

ECG Vest App
Viscero ECG vest

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