A&E departments could have First Class airline-style pods to make hospitals seem less frightening.
It's one of an array of innovative proposals – also including gardens between wards, and starfish-shaped hubs – that could help inform the design of new hospitals.
Five ideas have been shortlisted for this year’s £250,000 Wolfson Economics Prize – the second biggest economics prize in the world.
This year the award is aiming to find innovations to improve hospitals for patients and staff.
Health secretary Sajid Javid said the entries would "help inform" what the government has called the "biggest hospital building programme in a generation", worth £3.7bn.
"The Smart ED", co-authored by Dr Susan Robinson, a consultant in emergency medicine at Cambridge University Hospitals, is an entry that reimagines the emergency department.
It suggests First Class airline-style pods in A&E departments for patients with less serious conditions, with controllable lighting and mobile phone chargers.
Written during her spare time during the COVID pandemic, The Smart ED is designed to accommodate a threefold capacity in A&E departments without requiring additional space.
Watch: Will using hydrogen mean bigger bills?
Another entry proposes starfish-shaped hospital hubs that would divide up five core hospital activities into each 'ray' of the five-ray starfish.
Its designer Deirdre King said: "The starfish design will empower staff to provide optimal clinical services in a calm and welcoming environment, enhance hospital experiences for all, and offer a vision to build a healthier population."
The starfish hospitals would also incorporate modern designs including plant-life and welcoming surroundings to make entering hospitals feel "like a five-star hotel".
Meanwhile, an entry entitled "Living Systems" proposes a green hospital design that takes a multi-sensory approach.
It includes an in-house marketplace of local produce, a rooftop urban farm that helps supply the kitchen and an accessible "pocket garden" between each ward.
Lord Kakkar, chair of the judging panel, said: "Out of an exceptionally strong field, the shortlisted entries demonstrate particularly ingenious approaches.
"With a renewed focus on hospital building in the UK, these finalists have a really exciting opportunity to shape how NHS hospitals look, feel and function."
Javid said: "Hospitals are an intrinsic part of local communities, helping to save lives and keep people healthy.
"We're on track to deliver 48 hospitals by 2030 which will give staff the facilities needed to continue providing top quality care for years to come.
"All our new hospitals will prioritise sustainability, digital technology and the latest construction methods, delivering state-of-the-art facilities for patients while maximising value for taxpayers’ money.
"This year’s Wolfson shortlist is packed full of innovative ideas to help inform these plans and I wish all the finalists the best of luck."
Watch: Samsung says 'the future is foldable' as it unveils new smartphones