Spanning the Divide

By Debra Levin, President & CEO of The Center for Health Design, Healthcare Design (HCD) Magazine | October 10, 2022

In the October 2022 issue of HCD Magazine, author Debra Levin discusses her perspective on the blending of two healthcare worlds, physical and digital. Even before the pandemic, healthcare was starting to shift toward this experience. As designers in the healthcare industry, we account for both interactions within the design process for our clients.

There’s a word we’re hearing more lately: Phygital. A linguistic mashup of the words “physical” and “digital,” it’s used to describe experiences that blend the physical environment with the digital one.

This trend is happening in multiple industries to varying degrees of success. Think Amazon Go stores where you shop in a physical space but a digital interface automatically tracks what you select and charges you for your items as you leave the store. Another example is using your phone to scan a QR code at your favorite restaurant to see the menu rather than being handed one when you’re seated.

These are just two ways that phygital solutions are becoming a part of daily life. In many cases, the COVID-19 pandemic gets the credit for this shift; but in healthcare, we were starting to see care moving in this direction before March 2020.

When mapping the patient journey at the start of the design process, it’s as essential to consider the bricks and mortar environments that patients and their families will need to navigate as it is the digital experience, especially when planning for the future.

Telemed visits, wearable devices that provide real-time health indicators, apps for making or changing appointments and emailing care providers, patient portals to securely access health data and lab/test results, kiosks for checking in, and at-home monitoring devices are just a few of the many healthcare experiences that bridge the physical and digital.

The pace of technological advances is increasing, too. We’re seeing more opportunities for care to be delivered in the home environment through the use of digital monitoring and mobile technology.

At The Center, the all-volunteer Environmental Standards Council has spent the last year creating a digital roadmap to chart the patient journey and better identify where design professionals can play a role in improving the patient experience. From lifestyle interventions and early detection and diagnostics (wearables) to therapy choices and long-term care (sensors and digital monitoring), technology that interacts with the physical space will change how consumers interact with the healthcare system and expand where care can be accessed.

Members of the council have been exploring the touch points for these interventions and will present the session “Patient Experience in the Digital Age” at the annual Healthcare Design Conference + Expo, being held Oct. 8-11 in San Antonio. (Visit for schedule and registration details.)

During the session, they’ll gather feedback from attendees and then spend the next few months exploring what tools and resources can be developed to support the healthcare design community in addressing how to design and integrate digital and physical experiences into the patient journey.

In the future, phygital experiences will transform how we manage our healthcare system interactions and health. Successful phygital experiences, such as telemetry sensors that can be worn at home and send real-time data to caregivers, will make life easier for the consumer by optimizing the relationship between the users and the healthcare activity to make the experience seamless. Creating customer interactions that account for the digital and the physical experience will be critical to success and should be considered a part of the design process.

To read the publication in its entirety, click here.

Written by Anne Holden