Telehealth: A Disruptor within Healthcare Real Estate

Commentary by: Todd Perman, CCIM, Vice Chairman, Global Healthcare Services

One of the more recent topics within the healthcare industry is telehealth and its potential disruption of the healthcare real estate environment. I wanted to share my perspective and insights on this trend based on a career history and experience working within and around telehealth.

For the past three decades, changes within the healthcare industry have happened very slowly and deliberately. The pendulum of change would often swing back and forth, consistently resulting in a slow but steady change. With the arrival of COVID-19, the healthcare industry experienced change at warp speeds. Approvals for telehealth visit reimbursements at different tiers of service have happened almost instantaneously. Revisions have been made and continuously expanded as telehealth evolves to meet new demands. Telehealth and reimbursement changes will remain, and while they will continue to evoke new policies, the new era of telehealth is here to stay. To understand telehealth policies and how the laws and regulations work, the Center for Connected Health Policy (CCHP) offers resources and reports to help educate the public on telehealth services and programs.

Before determining the impact and effect telehealth will have on the healthcare real estate environment, we need to take a step back and define what telehealth is. It is often used in a general context, lumping all the services and offerings together.

So, what is telehealth? TTelehealth can be defined as using digital information and communication technologies for patients to access health care services remotely. Even the most basic information sharing between the patient and doctor fits into this definition. With the burgeoning technology platforms designed to manage and create these virtual interactions, we see a wide range of uses.

Telehealth Platform Uses | What We Are Seeing

  • Patient portals to share information between healthcare providers and patients
  • Virtual appointments
  • Remote monitoring
  • Chronic care management
  • Doctors collaborating with other Specialists over care
  • Personal health records
  • Personal health apps

There have been various articles published by the Mayo Clinic outlining telehealth in more detail and examining how technology is intersecting with healthcare services and the benefits of its uses.

Technologies have rapidly developed, including wearables for acute and chronic uses. Remote stethoscopes, blood glucose, blood pressure, weight, temperature and many other indicators can help provide virtual information to physicians to drive better and more immediate care. With reimbursement and technology converging, telehealth directives will continue to develop.

So back to the original question, how will this development affect healthcare real estate? The development of these technologies and the ability to connect and share information back and forth between healthcare providers and patients is a fantastic advancement to supplement in-person care and promote wellness. For chronic issues like hypertension, oncology, diabetes, etc., constant monitoring is key in managing patient care; however, it does not necessarily replace the recurring in-person visits for the care team to interact with the patient. Moreover, telehealth compliments caretaking services and allows the team to manage the chronically ill efficiently. Conversely, for acute (temporary) illnesses, we will likely see some healthy patients utilize this technology, and the result will be fewer in-person visits. Do we expect this to massively disrupt the healthcare real estate industry or the configuration of medical offices? No, we do not anticipate a drop in demand for healthcare due to advances in telehealth technology. We see the intersection of technology and healthcare as divergent and complementary, resulting in new synergies.

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