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Lake Nona's WHIT House Brings Healthcare Innovation Into the Home of the Future

Analysis  |  By Eric Wicklund  
   August 18, 2023

As healthcare organizations move more services into the home, a 'living lab' smart home in Orlando's innovation community offers ideas on how to integrate healthcare with daily life.

As health systems embrace the value of the home in care coordination and management, a "living laboratory" built in the shadows of Walt Disney World is giving healthcare executives new perspective on how their healthcare programs can better integrate with home life.

WHIT (Wellness Home built on Innovation and Technology) House is a unique platform designed to showcase the latest in healthcare innovation and technology. The fully functional home is part of the Lake Nona Region, a 17-square-mile planned community in Orlando that's billed as "a community of and for the future."

The program aims to attract healthcare executives who are moving more services out of the hospital and into the home, as well as those who want to see how a smart home can collect and transmit data that could be used in clinical care management.

"This is a real home in a real neighborhood on a quiet street that is also a living lab," says Gloria Caulfield, vice president of strategic alliances at the Tavistock Group, Lake Nona's developer, and executive director of the Lake Nona Institute, which includes the WHIT House. "And we're always in the loop on what's next."

Gloria Caulfield, vice president of strategic alliances, Tavistock Group. Photo courtesy Tavistock Group.

According to Caulfield and Juan Santos, Tavistock's senior vice president of brand experience and innovation, WHIT House offers healthcare executives a different look at innovation. Each room in the house features a wide array of technological projects, from smart appliances, toilets, and beds, to 3D printers that can print pharmaceuticals or nutriceuticals to the latest in sensor-embedded windows, lighting, water purification, and gardening concepts.

The healthcare industry has taken notice. Nemours opened its children's hospital in Lake Nona in 2012, and has been among the nation's leaders in pediatric care innovation. HCA Healthcare is a partner, says Caulfield, as is the Veterans Administration and the University of Central Florida College of Medicine and the University of Florida College of Pharmacy. Those health systems and companies like Johnson & Johnson, Verizon, and KPMG are all part of the 650-acre health and life sciences park, while the nearby Lake Nona Performance Club puts innovation to the test in fitness and athletics.

Another neighbor is Fountain Life, a recently launched concierge-style healthcare provider that focuses on gathering top healthcare specialists to create centers of excellence for precision care.

According to officials, health systems are particularly interested in bedroom design, especially in pediatric care. As acute care at home programs gain traction, healthcare executives are focused on how patients can be treated in their own beds, rather than a hospital bed, and how bedroom technology can capture and transmit relevant data back to care teams. The same strategy applies to bathrooms, where technology can track medication adherence, dental care, weight and other vital signs, and urinary and bowel output.

Another area of interest is the kitchen, especially as healthcare organizations address social determinants of health in care management. Technology associated with food preparation, hydration, nutrition measurement, and meal tracking can play important roles in a variety of programs, from chronic care management to behavioral health.

Home design is also important to healthcare executives designing programs that allow seniors and those with physical and developmental disabilities to stay at home, as well as for patients needing to rehab at home after a hospital stay.

Caulfield and Santos note that while healthcare organizations across the country are launching innovation centers and labs, WHIT House looks beyond healthcare innovation in the healthcare space to study how it can be integrated into the home and daily life. The idea, says Caulfield, is to make healthcare a natural part of the home, so that it's included in design and building plans and even marketed as such by realtors.

"Health usually isn't a factor in home-buying," says Santos. "And that needs to change. [WHIT House] changes the way you interact with your home. The kitchen, for example, is absolutely full of design details that make it healthier."

Juan Santos, senior vice president of brand experience and innovation, Tavistock Group. Photo courtesy Tavistock Group. 

"The whole point of this is that in designing things the way they are we can maybe change behaviors," he adds. "We strive to be a living lab."

"We're a Switzerland health and life sciences cluster," jokes Caulfield, who's also executive director of the Lake Nona Impact Forum, an invitation-only event that aims to elevate the innovation discussion. "We bring in the best people to talk about the most pressing matters in relation to healthcare and innovation. And we want everybody to be a part of that conversation."

That strategy synchs well with two trends in healthcare: The shift in care and services from the hospital to the home and the emphasis on identifying and addressing social determinants of health.

As health systems implement acute care at home and remote patient monitoring programs, they're taking a closer look at the home environment to better integrate medical technology that can gather and send data back to the care team. Smart homes would offer more of those opportunities, from WiFi platforms to sensor-embedded furniture and appliances that could facilitate data gathering and transmission.

And as healthcare providers look to understand the underlying, nonclinical factors that affect clinical outcomes, a smart home that can tell care providers what a patient is eating and how often, how much sleep and exercise a patient is getting, even when a patient uses the bathroom, will add to that wealth of information that can impact care coordination and management.

WHIT House "is continuously working" to validate those tools and technology, says Santos, noting the house schedules themes to highlight certain users or programs, such as aging in place, mental healthcare at home, the bedroom as a reference lab (there are 20 to 30 ongoing tech projects alone in that room, he says) and the importance of good sleep.

"We're actually trying to go beyond smart," he says. "We want to be responsive and be smart with a purpose."

“The whole point of this is that in designing things the way they are we can maybe change behaviors. We strive to be a living lab.”

Eric Wicklund is the associate content manager and senior editor for Innovation, Technology, and Pharma for HealthLeaders.

Photo credit: Tavistock/Scott Cook Photography.


WHIT House, part of the Orlando, Florida–based Lake Nona District, is a living lab designed to integrate health and wellness technology and concepts with home life and daily living.

The program aims to attract healthcare executives who are moving more services out of the hospital and into the home, as well as those who want to see how a smart home can collect and transmit data that could be used in clinical care management.

WHIT House executives say healthcare providers often look at innovation within the lens of clinical care, when they should be exploring how healthcare concepts can be integrated into the home.

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