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The hospital experience needs a complete rethink. Being admitted in the first place disrupts your life (and the lives of your loved ones), taking you away from the comfort of home at your most vulnerable. And the labyrinthine layouts of hospitals are disorienting, even when you’re being navigated by a friendly porter. Most frustrating of all (beyond the scary stuff of IVs, MRIs and other necessary evils) are the long wait times between specialist appointments, which can also prolong the hospital stay. The patient, in other words, is at the mercy of a system of care that, even in advanced medical settings, sometimes seems anathema to healing. What if the whole enterprise were upended?

With Bionica, Yunnan Allen and Brian Schaller (senior project architect/team leader and senior project designer/artistic director, respectively) present a futuristic hospital concept of a robotics-enabled facility consisting of modular pods arranged in a gridded tower. It sounds like the stuff of sci-fi, but it’s rooted in the real world: HDR, the firm that Allen and Schaller work for, has made healthcare facilities a specialty of its capacious portfolio. But for Allen, Bionica is also deeply personal. “I’m a cancer survivor and was in hospital a lot. As a patient as well as someone that helps to design and build hospitals, I feel like the dual viewpoint gave us a unique perspective.”

HDR's futuristic hospital concept called Bionica includes many pods with various functions
Central to HDR’s futuristic hospital concept is the inclusion of detachable pods.

The first obstacle that Bionica tackles is how to get the patient to the hospital. A pod detaches from the framework and picks them up at home via a drone (or by truck, depending on the situation), which then delivers them to the mother ship. Here, the appointments come to the patient. Modules equipped with different services like CT scans, MRIs and labs — even operating rooms — are robotically transported to plug into the patient’s module. Verdant gardens and communal spaces abound throughout, a consideration for both those on the mend and often-overworked hospital staff. The dynamic concept was entered (and won first place) in a competition for bold new ideas on the future of healthcare.

Bionica, a futuristic hospital concept by HDR, would bring MRI, CT and even OR facilities directly to the patient.
These units could contain MRI, CT and OR modules.

While it seems like a utopian moonshot, Bionica’s core ideals are already piquing the interest of both doctors and builders. “I showed the video [created for the competition] to my two oncologists,” says Allen. “They definitely know the future of healthcare and they’re extremely excited about where this is going. Then I showed it to a contractor, fearing that they would just think there’s no way this is going to work. But they also got super excited. Now, they’re constantly asking, ‘What are you guys doing about Bionica?’”

The complete overhaul of the patient experience that Bionica represents should inform future healthcare projects everywhere.

Bionica, HDR’s Futuristic Healthcare Concept, Puts the Patient First

A modular facility that brings appointments to the patient – from MRI scans to operating room procedures – Bionica is a futuristic hospital concept with lessons for the real world.

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