Some of the largest metros in the U.S. are facing a shortage in medical office space. According to a report from Transwestern, 150,000 new healthcare practitioners could be added to the economy in the next two years; however, it still may not be enough. The Association of American Medical Colleges expects a shortfall of physicians and medical professionals in the coming years, more specifically, a shortage of 42,600 to 121,300 physicians by 2030. On top of the medical professionals and space shortages, baby boomers’ demands for medical attention are increasing. All of these shifts are forcing practitioners to expand beyond traditional care and design healthcare facilities with telehealth and telemedicine services in mind.
Telehealth is revolutionizing the healthcare industry. It’s a modern approach to the at home doctor visit which was once the norm. Some U.S. hospitals have a telehealth or telemedicine program, and consumers are open to the change. Consumers, Millennials especially, are looking for more convenient care, faster service, and greater technology integration. Telehealth can check all those boxes. The technology can also be a lifeline for elderly and immobile patients. Healthcare facilities must think beyond the technological updates of implementing telehealth services and focus on telehealth and telemedicine design.
The Facility Guidelines Institute (FGI) Health Guidelines Revision Committee (HGRC) developed minimum design requirements for telemedicine spaces. The minimum telemedicine design requirements strive to produce the same level of care as in-person facilities when it comes to patient experience, quality of care, and privacy. Healthcare facilities must consider the following requirements when designing for telemedicine bays, cubicles, or rooms:
- Interior Surfaces
- Site Identification
Space/Size – If the telemedicine space is also used for patient exams, there must be enough room for the telemedicine equipment, exam table, patient presenter, hand-washing station, and a documentation area. Telemedicine spaces should be designed with privacy in mind. Patients, monitors, and screens should not be visible from outside the telemedicine space.
Acoustics – It’s important to cut down on surrounding noise that microphones may pick up. Telemedicine space should be a quiet area away from busy corridors, stairwells, HVAC systems, etc. Rooms must also consider the sound isolation rating based on the room’s clinical function.
Lighting – Direct frontal lighting must be used in the space and it’s recommended to use both direct and indirect lighting to reduce shadows and produce more accurate coloring in the transmitted image. Steps must be taken to reduce glare, such as adding blinds to windows.
Interior Surfaces – When choosing interior finishes and colors, facilities must choose colors that will render properly in the transmitted image. A flat paint color is recommended for the backdrop wall to reduce glare and reflections.
Site Identification – Facility signage should be easily seen, whether on the backdrop wall or if it is embedded in the video platform.
Equipment – Camera placement is critical. Patients must feel they are receiving the same intimate care as they would if they were there in person. To do this, the cameras of both parties should be placed at eye level. Also, doors and windows in line with the camera should remain closed or shielded to maintain patient privacy. Telemedicine design requires a secure storage option for equipment. Room temperature must be monitered to account for the heat of the electronic devices. Telemedicine equipment should follow infection-prevention practices.
We are coming to a major crossroads in the healthcare industry as the shortage in healthcare professionals and medical office space plus the increasing aging population come to a head. Telemedicine will become a crucial service offering but must provide patients with the same quality care, privacy, and safety as an in-person visit. As telemedicine and telehealth continue to be more widely adopted, the built-environment standards are sure to evolve.
For more healthcare related trends, check out our top 5 takeaways from the PDC Summit.