Industry Voices—House calls are making a virtual revival. How telehealth is changing facilities management

Telehealth consultation
The rise of telehealth causes facility managers to design spaces differently with a focus more on community-based healthcare facilities. (Getty/AndreyPopov)

Back in the day, doctors would make house calls to treat patients conveniently in their own homes. As the years passed, the old-fashioned practice slowly went out of style.

However, house calls are now beginning to make a virtual revival—thanks to the rise of telehealth. Doctors everywhere are now connecting with their patients anytime, anywhere using the power of technology. In fact, more than 76% of hospitals in the U.S. are currently consulting with patients and other practitioners by using video conferencing and the internet.  

As healthcare providers, we know that telehealth allows physicians to deliver medical, health and education services by utilizing telecommunications and electronic information technologies. Telehealth supports long-distance communication through real-time video conferencing, remote patient monitoring or mobile alerts (such as targeted texts or mass notifications about certain disease outbreaks). Patients across the country can now connect to their doctors with the simple touch of a button.

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Telehealth isn’t intended to replace hospital trips in cases of emergencies where immediate assistance is required; instead, it increases accessibility to doctors, physicians and specialists. These virtual visits ensure that patients receive the care they need when they need it. As telehealth programs continue to expand, it’s crucial to understand how the future of facility management will shift with these technological advancements in healthcare.  

How is telehealth changing healthcare?

The implementation of telehealth programs in healthcare facilities has many benefits to patients all across the nation. For one, telehealth can bring healthcare to a patient who is unable to physically travel. This means that patients can get the care they need regardless of their physical condition, access to transportation or geographic location. When appointments take place via computer or phone, healthcare professionals can see more patients in a shorter period of time. 

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Now, more patients can be treated in less time, reducing overall costs associated with healthcare. In fact, $86.64 is the average amount saved every time a patient receives their care online versus in a clinic or emergency room, according to the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center. The fiscal benefits of telehealth programs are undeniable. 

What does telehealth mean for facilities management?

Nearly 75% of doctor visits, urgent care and ER visits can be handled over the phone or through video, according to the American Medical Association and Wellness Council of America.

A study of outcomes for 8,000 patients showed no difference in care quality between telehealth appointments and in-person visits. In some cases, the physical space of a hospital is necessary to provide patient care, but often a physical trip to a hospital isn’t needed at all. Telehealth programs can even free up space in urgent care centers for patients that require critical care in a physical hospital. 

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The rise of telehealth causes facility managers to design spaces differently. Healthcare as we know it is changing to focus more on community-based healthcare facilities. Facilities management leaders must focus on the physical facility as well as the virtual one. 

Telehealth makes healthcare more accessible to everyone, everywhere. Healthcare facilities aren’t going anywhere, because special environments will always be needed for severe issues with the lungs, heart or brain that require around-the-clock care. However, with the expansion of telehealth and community-based healthcare facilities, specialized care is becoming more common. 

What happens next? 

As telehealth continues on, wearable technology such as Fitbits or heart rate monitors will allow healthcare professionals to be even more accurate in their diagnoses. These personal health devices inform patients on their own health in real time, allowing them to virtually share the data with their doctors. This enables doctors to check up on patients’ ongoing health by utilizing these data.

Virtual reality has also expanded into the healthcare field with the rise of telehealth. In turn, we’ve already begun to see the benefits of VR headsets to help foster cognitive reasoning in elderly patients. 

Telehealth is continuing to grow, and facility managers are learning to adapt to these technological changes. House calls may no longer be in practice, but you can still receive care anytime and anywhere by simply opening an app rather than opening a door. 

Jason “JD” Duigou is the chief information officer at Medxcel, which provides healthcare service support products and drives in-house capabilities, savings, and efficiencies for healthcare organizations that, in turn, improve the overall healing environment for patients and staff.