Medical offices in 2019 look very different than they do today in 2021. However, what we do notice that has come to the forefront is telehealth. Last year, 14,000 people received telehealth services. Between mid-March through early July, that figure shot up to 101 million per week. As a result, more people can gain access to healthcare including the elderly and those too disabled to travel to a practice. Telehealth’s trajectory has been altered from nascent to emerging but what does that mean for healthcare real estate?
Telehealth will ultimately be a complement to medicine as it will never be able to 100% truly replace an actual in-person visit. The most likely change you might see to the physical space is one or two exam rooms being fitted out specifically for telehealth. These rooms would still have all the necessary equipment for a face-face examination, and then when a virtual visit is scheduled, the doctor could use this space to virtually consult with a patient. This wider use of technology is clearly here to stay.
When it comes to telehealth, there is still a lot that needs to be worked through, but the experience has been very positive for both the provider and patient. Telehealth won’t necessarily lead to a small office footprint either. At the end of the day, doctors and patients both prefer to see each other in person. The configuration may change but the overall square footage will not. It’s also an excellent tool for follow-up visits and if anything, the medical office may even expand with the advent of telehealth services. By reaching out to more rural residents, telehealth will likely lead to more foot traffic as well.
Many buildings have implemented touchless entry to reduce germs. This will become much more commonplace. Air handling is already in medical buildings and clinics while other commercial spaces will not implement more expensive HVAC systems to eradicate viral and bacterial infiltration. When it comes to healthcare, this area will be stressed to a greater degree than ever before. Properties are some of the cleanest they’ve ever been. One trend that will not change is the growing retailization of healthcare. Medical locations in commercial retail settings are nothing new, but now suddenly vacant spaces have become prime locations. Property owners are looking at healthcare as a supplement to previously occupied retail spaces. The pandemic will have an enduring impression on the way we design healthcare spaces.