Telemedicine & Healthcare Construction
The TV that’s sitting in your living room (or more likely, attached to the wall) probably doesn’t look anything like the TV you had ten years ago. As technology gets better and better, the electronics that we use every day change shape, improve in quality and become more reliable. These are the things that inspire design development.
But what inspires the changing shape of the modern hospital? Just as new technologies have shaped the things we use, they are also shaping the places we go. Specifically, developments in how patients engage with healthcare professionals can encourage significant changes in how healthcare construction projects proceed.
One such development, which has gained a major foothold in recent years, is telemedicine and it’s making a big difference in how hospitals are designed.
What is Telemedicine?
Though it might sound like a highly modern development, the truth is that telemedicine has been an idea for decades. In fact, the first person to float the idea of telemedicine was Dr. Hugo Gernsback in 1925! Of course, it wasn’t until the 1950’s that hospitals actually began experimenting with this type of distance medicine.
At its core, telemedicine means giving patients a way to access medical advice and opinions without physically visiting a hospital or doctor’s office as well as to more easily transmit medical data and records to other healthcare providers (particularly in cases of emergency). Today, telemedicine usually involves broadband internet and video consultations via a Skype-like connection.
Telemedicine was initially developed as an easier way for physicians and other health professionals to provide services to people who lived in rural areas that made it difficult for them to access healthcare. Indeed, that is still a portion of what telemedicine does, but it is also involved in responding to emergencies quickly and ultimately in providing convenience and comfort to those patients that are unable or unwilling to visit a doctor in person. Further, telemedicine can offer a cost cutting option for healthcare providers that can see more patients in a shorter amount of time by using this technology.
How Telemedicine is Impacting Healthcare Construction
At first glance, telemedicine may not seem like it would have a major impact on healthcare construction. After all, hospitals are already equipped with high-speed internet and plenty of computers, so what else would you need?
The truth, of course, is more complicated. The rise in popularity of telemedicine has meant changes in construction of traditional healthcare facilities as well as the construction of facilities completely dedicated to telemedicine. In 2015, Mercy opened the U.S.’s first entirely virtual care center, staffed by doctors and nurses 24/7 but with no space for patients. These types of centers, which could easily become more common, have very different requirements for construction and dust containment. For instance, if no patients are in play, the restrictions for construction dust and infection control measures are going to be much laxer.
When it comes to traditional hospitals, more are including telemedicine spaces, meaning areas with the technology easily available for doctors to consult virtually. These rooms will be understandably smaller than typical patient rooms and will again have more lenient infection control restrictions.
Overall, it is important that healthcare construction professionals be aware of the rise in telemedicine so that they can offer proposals that suit facilities wishing to expand these types of offerings.
For more on trends in healthcare facility construction and maintenance, download our guide to 2017 trends below.