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What does Beyond COVID Healthcare look like in 2021?

What does Beyond COVID Healthcare look like in 2021?

Many industry sectors have undergone a rapid transformation during 2020. Healthcare is no exception. In fact, it has probably changed more than most whilst bearing the large burden of keeping us all safe. So what’s next? Healthcare design and fit-out specialist Evoke Projects looks ahead to Beyond COVID healthcare in 2021.

Technology will continue to revolutionise healthcare

Technology has been a major contributor throughout the pandemic with telehealth fast-tracked and electronic prescriptions rolled out.

The Australian Government reported that between 13 March and 9 September 2020, 29.6 million Medicare-eligible telehealth services were delivered to 10.4 million patients.1 Medicare subsidies for telehealth will be extended to 31 March 2021, which is good news for patients. Medical practices that were previously unable to charge an out of pocket co-payment now have more flexibility, which should help with the additional costs many practices have faced during the pandemic.

Online platforms to improve efficiency and patient experience

The move to telehealth has encouraged medical practices to further explore online platforms for improving efficiency, profitability and the patient experience. For example, Australian systems AutoMed and HotDoc have integrated telehealth functionality plus other services such as appointment bookings, digital forms, mobile check-in, patient recalls and scripts.2

Patient engagement technology improves practice efficiency while providing a seamless experience for patients. And not just a seamless experience, but a better experience. If patients check in or order repeat prescriptions via an app, reception staff can act as a “concierge”, greeting people, showing new patients how to use the app, explaining about processes and directing them to their clinician’s waiting area. Some apps also show if appointments are running late, allowing patients to delay their arrival. This is patient-friendly, facilitates smaller waiting rooms and promotes COVID-safe behaviour.

The healthcare practice design has the potential to feel more like a wellness spa with individual concierge counters, smaller waiting areas and more efficient movement through the practice.

App health monitoring

We already have watches and smartphone apps that track our steps and heart-rate. During the COVID pandemic in Victoria, Austin Health and Microsoft partner Arden Street Labs set up a smartphone application to help patients record their COVID-19 symptoms and seek medical advice. Austin Health’s medical team is alerted if the responses indicate that the patient needs a telehealth or hospital visit.3 Technology in 2021 will continue its push to improve health monitoring via apps.

Lean methodologies for healthcare design

‘Lean’ workplace methodologies aim to minimise waste in processes and procedures. Through adopting Lean principles, healthcare practices can improve COVID safety, efficiency, profitability and patient experience.

While Lean principles have been around for many years, COVID has led to many practices re-evaluating their current healthcare fit-outs and patient flow. Additional costs of PPE equipment, cleaning and lack of telehealth co-payments for some practices put financial pressure on GP clinics in particular. More efficiency and less waste is on everyone’s agenda for 2021.

Importantly, every member of the healthcare workplace should be involved in identifying areas for improvement. Each practice will have its individual challenges and opportunities, but Lean objectives in the healthcare setting could include:

  • reduced waiting times
  • more efficient patient flow through the practice
  • not stocking unnecessary medications and supplies
  • giving time back to staff to interact with patients
  • creating time for staff to think about process improvements
  • removing repetition in form filling or data entry
  • avoiding re-admissions through efficient diagnosis and treatment
  • prevention of inpatient complications
  • treating the whole person in one healthcare fit-out including diagnosis, treatment and education.

Lean healthcare fit-outs

Flexibility and versatility are vital for successful Lean healthcare fit-outs. It is important to create a future-proof healthcare fit-out that is agile and adaptable to new technology and changes beyond 2021.

An example of a Lean healthcare fit-out design is Harvard Vanguard Medical Associates – Atrius Health in Boston, USA. Patients can see many types of clinician in one building. The medical fit-out is standardised with every treatment room having the same design. This means clinicians know where to find everything and re-stocking supplies is efficient A second door in the examination room enables clinicians to quickly access administrative staff.

The overall result of this Lean methodology is a healthcare design and fit-out with a smaller footprint, reduced waiting and appointment times and better workflow. The freeing up of space in the overall medical fit-out allowed the addition of new services, such as a pharmacy.

Technology led improvements and Lean healthcare design look set to gather pace in Australia in 2021. If you would like to discuss Lean design in healthcare and future-proof medical fit-outs, please call Evoke Projects on 1300 720 692.

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