The typical clinical experience may soon be a distant memory. No longer will a patient need to sign in, wait in close proximity to other sick individuals, and waste valuable time and exposure while waiting to see the doctor.

The ease of conducting an appointment with a doctor from the comfort of home has proven to be a desirable alternative for patients that may continue beyond the distribution of a vaccine. As a result, it’s important for Medical Office Buildings to position themselves to support current tenants while attracting prospective clients in this evolving post-pandemic time.

According to data gathered by the CDC from four large Telehealth providers, Telehealth visits increased by 50% compared to the same time period in 2019.

One week, in particular, saw a 154% increase in Telehealth use when compared to the same week in 2019. While this unprecedented increase in Telehealth use was largely impacted by office closures and stay at home orders, “Telehealth was already experiencing significant momentum and growth prior to this public health emergency, and its continued trajectory has been solidified by the vital role it is playing in care delivery today” said Lisa Mazur, partner at McDermott Will and Emery.

All evidence is pointing to Telehealth visits continuing as a survey from IGVIA confirms out of 300 practitioners, only 9% of patient visits were Telehealth prior to the pandemic, with an increase to 51% today. The expectation is that this number will remain around 21% after the pandemic officially ends because of the ease and comfort for the patient.

So what does this mean for Medical Office Buildings and the support their tenants will need going forward? For large and time-share practices, the building can re-purpose hard to rent space and build what’s being proposed as an amenity based Telehealth Hub. This hub will provide balance for doctors to manage their in-person and virtual visits seamlessly when a private room for Telehealth appointments isn’t available. In the hub prototype, practitioners are greeted with a touch-less, app-based reservation system. From there, they select an individual room with HIPPA compliant acoustics and appropriate technology connections, providing a secure place to continue seeing patients.

Also present is a lounge area where practitioners can relax between patient appointments, and the inclusion of a coffee bar with dining space enables spontaneous cross-collaboration between practices. While proposed for medical community usage, private work areas provide a space for dictation between patients, separate from the reserved rooms for additional function.

Physicians are not the only ones to benefit from the Telehealth hub amenity. What was once considered un-rentable space can now be put to use and generate revenue for the building.

Similar to a co-working model, by charging tenants a weekly or monthly fee for access to the hub, ownership now has a new, untapped revenue stream never considered prior to the pandemic. Space division is proposed with a demountable wall system and furniture, providing the building owner maximum flexibility for future needs of the space.

It is yet to be determined whether the pandemic will continue to affect the way we live and work, but research is proving that Telehealth visits are one change that is here to stay. Providing a secure and quiet space for practitioners to safely continue their work is one key way building management can support their tenants in these evolving times. As Seema Verma, CMS Administrator, said, “…Now that providers and patients have had a taste, it’s difficult to imagine the Telehealth genie going back into the bottle.”

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