Innovating Cancer Care: Technology's Role in Enhancing Patient Experience

Editorial Team
May 9, 2024
Min Read
Innovating Cancer Care: Technology's Role in Enhancing Patient Experience

Rooz Afzal and Nick Tournis, PMP contributed to this article.

Healthcare is constantly having to adapt and change to meet the needs of each generation. One of the most significant health challenges facing adults today is cancer. As more of the population reaches the age of increased risk of cancer, healthcare providers are expanding access to cancer care. With expanding access to care, owners, facility managers, and architects must not lose sight of what is most important: providing spaces for patients to heal and minimize the burdens of cancer care. Technology can be a great tool to allow providers to spend more time with their patients, guiding them through their treatment journey. New advancements in patient room design can also provide patients more control over their environment and allow for more ways to be connected with their providers, families, and friends and engaged in their overall healthcare journey. In this article, we highlight technologies that are making a difference for both patients and providers and discuss considerations for owners and architects when designing to empathize with the patient experience. 

Trending Technologies

Receiving cancer care can be daunting even before walking through the doors of a clinic. Many times, patients have to navigate large healthcare facilities to get to their appointments, which can add stress to an already nerve-racking event. Recognizing an opportunity to relieve stress during this part of a patient’s journey, providers such as UNC Health have implemented digital interactive wayfinding systems to guide patients from their homes through the healthcare facility and directly to the clinic. UNC’s updated application used digital tools from two separate companies, and the successful collaboration with the two vendors aided in the development of a patient-centric digital tool. 

One of the significant benefits of new technology integrations in cancer care facilities is designing spaces that give patients more control over their environment. Leading providers such as Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center understand the impact of implementing room customization options such as lighting and HVAC controls to help patients have a sense of control over their environment. Even designing rooms to allow for “bring your own device” compatibility can bring the comfort of home to the healthcare facility. 

Technological advancements aren’t only being leveraged to improve patient experiences but also to promote better communication between providers and patients. Technologies such as patient engagement systems have proven effective in increasing the rate of cancer screenings in at-risk populations. Sometimes all someone needs is a gentle reminder to check in on their health. Solutions such as personalized text reminders and digital voice calls from community health workers effectively nudge patients to be proactive about their care. While patient engagement systems provide on-demand access to care information, it will not replace direct consultation with care providers. This is why telehealth has become essential for cancer care providers. Having a conversation about cancer with a doctor can be daunting. Being able to discuss treatment plans from the comfort of one’s home can alleviate some stress from the patient and allow providers to set up their care sooner. Reducing the time it takes an individual to take action can increase the likelihood of catching cancer early and allow for time to take preventative measures. 

Streamlining workflows for nurses and staff using technologies such as smart beds and Real Time Location Systems (RTLS) allows nursing staff to spend more time with their patients and directly care for them. Smart beds have been shown to reduce stress on nursing staff by recording basic information, and many nurses have deemed them highly assistive and necessary for their jobs. RTLS is being used by hospital staff to quickly conduct inventory checks in pharmacies and supply rooms and has been shown to reduce theft and misplaced items, adding peace of mind to healthcare staff.

Technology should always aim to help people be more connected. In the cancer care setting, this means giving providers more time to spend with their patients and giving patients avenues to not feel isolated during their treatment journey. Tools such as ambient listening devices are currently being tested by multiple healthcare providers. In clinical trials, these devices have been shown to not only decrease the amount of time it takes for physicians to take notes but also create a sense of understanding between patient and physician since patients see their concerns written out as stated on their patient portal.

Design Considerations

All of these valuable technologies are better to consider early in design. In a previous article, we discussed the importance of beginning a project by going into meetings and planning sessions with an open mind and remaining curious. By removing preconceived assumptions and judgments, it paves the way for effective and empathetic decision-making. As consultants, we emphasize with our clients understanding how a project will impact patient care and the overall direction of their facility, recognizing that their goals may extend beyond just technology. We help prioritize what technologies best help our client’s staff and patients and help our clients achieve their strategic goals.

We have found that it's best to discuss technology solutions in the early phases of project planning so that general design considerations can be coordinated with the entire design team. Some of these considerations that would be important to discuss in early planning include coordination of low-voltage cabling, hardware versus software integrations, understanding how windows and finishes affect audiovisual technology, and Internet of Things (IoT) connections to facility systems (such as RTLS and smart beds) are just a few of the many items design teams need to consider during early design phases of projects, and not left to figure out as “Day-2” items. Specific technology integrations can drastically impact clinical workflows and need to be understood early on in project lifecycles.  Documenting these integrations in a technology integration matrix helps connect the dots between the use case, the type of integration (shrink-wrapped, API, or hardware-based), and protocols for data exchange in a single document. Having this document as a source of truth throughout design leads to more streamlined communication between design consultants, integrators, and construction teams and a more complete set of coordinated project specifications that align with the way the owner wants their technology systems to operate on “Day-1.”

Excerpts from a technology integration matrix used in TEECOM's healthcare projects


As we navigate the evolving landscape of healthcare, it's essential to keep patient-centered design at the forefront of our minds. By leveraging technologies that enhance patient control and communication, we not only improve the healthcare experience we also alleviate some burdens from healthcare providers. From customizable room features to innovative patient engagement systems, each advancement in technology contributes to a more empathetic and efficient cancer care environment. Early consideration of these technologies in the design process ensures seamless integration and fosters collaborative synergy among all stakeholders, ultimately advancing our shared goal of delivering compassionate, patient-centered care.

If you are curious about how a Technology Design Consultant could improve your next cancer center project, reach out to us via the contact form, and one of our Healthcare Leaders will reach out to you!