The practice of doctors making house calls to see patients in their own homes was popular back in the 1930s and 40s. In fact, house calls accounted for 40% of U.S. doctors’ visits at the time. Medical professionals would arrive at a patient’s home at a moment’s notice, bringing with them all the tools they needed to provide the best care (the “best care” for the 40s, that is). As house calls have become virtually nonexistent today, who would have thought they’d make a virtual comeback?

Telehealth.jpgWhile our healthcare industry has certainly advanced from the 20th century, telehealth is putting a 21st century spin on the old-fashioned house call. Now, instead of opening a door, patients simply need to open an app.
What is Telehealth?
Telehealth is the use of telecommunications technologies to support long-distance health care. Currently, more than half of all U.S. hospitals have some type of telehealth program in their facilities. Telehealth allows for doctors to care for patients in a variety of ways, such as:
  • Real-time live or recorded video conferencing
  • Patient monitoring
  • Mobile medical care
  • Targeted text alerts
    Telehealth ensures that patients receive the best care at the right time and place by increasing accessibility to doctors. Telehealth does not replace trips to the hospital in emergency situations where immediate help is required, however. Rather, these virtual visits offer help for a variety of non-emergent issues, such as colds, allergies, high blood pressure, anxiety and depression, or post-surgery follow-up appointments. 
    What are the benefits of telehealth programs?
    There are many positive aspects of implementing a telehealth program. If a patient cannot physically travel due to their geographic location, physical condition, or lack of transportation, telehealth can bring medical care to the patients. In addition, doctors can see a larger number of patients in a shorter amount of time when appointments are held via computer or phone. More patients being diagnosed in less time means the facility can run more efficiently.
    How does telehealth relate to facilities management?
    Hospitals are crucial to providing the best care possible. However, more times than not, a trip to the physical healthcare facility isn’t all that necessary. In fact, studies have shown that nearly 75% of doctor, urgent care and ER visits could have been handled via phone or video.
    This means that the way facilities are designed is changing to adapt to more virtual visits. Healthcare as we know it is also changing to focus more on smaller populations with community-based healthcare facilities. This requires facilities management leaders to develop a mobile workforce strategy.
    Patients who require critical care, such as severe issues with their lungs, heart or brain, require 24/7 care at a physical hospital. Special environments that are focused on specific areas of expertise are becoming the new normal as telehealth takes over.
    What’s next?
    Wearable technology such as Fitbits or heart rate monitors will continue to inform patients about healthcare data in real time and allow them to share with their doctor. Doctors can be linked in to patients’ ongoing health and can utilize telehealth’s applications should an issue arise.
    As the telehealth revolution continues to boom, facility managers must adapt to the virtual changes. While hospitals will never be truly nonexistent, telehealth is paving the way for a new era of care. It might not be 1945, but a house call may be within your reach. The next time you’re feeling ill, don’t worry about the long line at urgent care – a video call could do the trick.