My role as the Tampa Healthcare Design Market Leader requires that I interpret, communicate and implement strategies that will address the challenges faced not just by our healthcare clients but by the healthcare industry as a whole. The inferences that I and colleagues in similar positions are asked to make are complicated by the fluid nature of the healthcare industry and the various forces (e.g. economic, political, social, and regulatory) which act upon it. Take Covid for example and how it’s lead to an accelerated rate of change within the Healthcare industry. What do we anticipate will be the impact of Covid on care delivery, staffing models, and the places where care is provided? Three service lines provide small clues as to what we should expect.
The impact of COVID on the American psyche is clear. Months of “social distancing” and isolation have contributed to a high number of Americans who report increased levels of stress, fear and anxiety. Covid’s impact on mental health is tied not just to understandable concerns over its physical impact but to socioeconomic considerations tied to the pandemic’s impact on the broader US economy. So, what should healthcare system administrators expect over the next few months? Simply put, the increased need for mental health treatment that we’re seeing will continue, at elevated numbers, lockstep with the recovery of the US economy. Solutions to behavioral health treatment options will need to be considered within the framework of a much larger conversation tied to the need for national mental health reform. For the time being, clinicians and system administrators should prepare for an increased demand for the type of spaces that will facilitate ongoing needs, both within the community (Outpatient Setting), as well as within a more specialized healthcare delivery setting (Inpatient Setting).
I count myself as one of the thousands of Americans who’ve recently felt the need to explore Telehealth options as part of a broader protection strategy against exposure to Covid. The reality is that there’s nothing new about Telehealth. The truth is that historically speaking, Telehealth has previously been widely shunned by consumers and clinicians alike. The emergence of Covid led to fast-tracking solutions to deal with consumer unfamiliarity, reluctance to change, and privacy hurdles that had previously existed for years. So, what should we expect to see? For one, we should expect to see the continued growth of Telehealth services in line with increased levels of user [patient and clinician] comfort and familiarity. We should also expect to see increased levels of positive “patient experience” leading to telehealth becoming a more integral part of the patient care continuum. In short, we need to migrate thinking of Telehealth as a “trend” and take it for what it really is: a care delivery option that is here to stay.
The effects of Covid have, without question, impacted almost every aspect of the Healthcare industry. Having said that, few service lines have been impacted and had weaknesses exposed, as did the Senior Care market.
Nationwide Covid outbreaks in nursing homes, assisted living and senior care facilities gripped the country for weeks at the onset of the pandemic. Individuals withs means moved quickly to secure home-based care options for their loved ones. Those in less enviable positions were forced to leave their medically fragile loved ones in the hands of clinicians who had little to no clinical experience with a healthcare event of the magnitude of a worldwide pandemic. The results were predictable: catastrophic loss of life in one of our most vulnerable populations. Clinical and staffing dynamics, unique to the Senior Care environment (at least on the Government-funded care side), were compounded by funding challenges that are anticipated to grow larger as we face continued economic pressure. The combination of these forces begins to hint at the growing opportunity that home-based care could provide. The shift in the care delivery model represents not just a short-term solution to that which ails the Senior Care, but perhaps signals a much stronger, and permanent, move away from the traditional senior care settings (nursing homes and assisted living facilities).
You’re not wrong for feeling as though the Healthcare industry is in a constant state of flux. Economic, political, social, and regulatory dynamics, including a global pandemic, can act upon the Healthcare industry to precipitate change. Nowhere are these changes more readily visible than within the Behavioral Health, Telehealth, and Senior Care service lines. Careful consideration of these [and similar] service lines can help pave the way to solutions that can both, alleviate the economic distress that Healthcare Systems are feeling, while also improving levels of care and patient care outcomes. But, even with Covid out of the picture, one thing continues to be true: uncertainty will continue to be the one certainty when it comes to the Healthcare Industry.
Ray A. Wong is Healthcare Design Market Leader for Baker Barrios. His healthcare design and planning experience spans nearly 17 years and includes local, regional, national and international clients.