When first faced with COVID-19 in early 2020, doctors sprang into action as they attempted to find new and workable ways of triaging patients, treating the illness, and minimizing its spread. However, in-patient visits plummeted as patients either avoided routine care or opted for telehealth visits instead. This sudden drop in patient load left many clinics rethinking their real estate strategy. Now, some six months later, we have a much better handle on the virus, and in-person visits have largely recovered to their pre-pandemic numbers – although patients still remain wary of exposure.
The challenge for healthcare providers today is to ensure that their spaces meet the needs of a post-COVID world. Here’s what should be top of mind when it comes to adapting your medical workplaces to fit the new normal.
The End of the Waiting Room
With social distancing having been the common theme of the last several months, it’s no surprise that patients don’t want to be crowded at length into a small space – especially one where they’re potentially being exposed to other sick people. A better solution is to check in a patient online or quickly in person, then direct them to an exam room. This is something to consider when planning out, redesigning, or leasing a new space.
Improved Air Circulation
Just as people can be healthy (or not), so can buildings. One key factor in improving a building’s health is updating its HVAC systems to minimize the spread of infectious diseases. Moisture control, filtration, and air-cleaning, and contaminant control can all reduce the risk of viral spread. Opting for sizeable, well-ventilated spaces and windows that open and close can also help.
Shields and Sanitation Stations
Shields to protect against aerosol contaminants can reduce the risk of exposure for both staff and patients. These can be set up around high-traffic areas, areas of close contact, or in areas where staff or patients are expected to spend a prolonged amount of time. Additionally, sanitation stations for handwashing should be placed at regular intervals around the building.
Towards the Touch-Free
Now is the time to redesign your healthcare space to minimize unnecessary contact. Automatic doors, faucets and flushes, and soap dispensers should all be par for the course. Contactless payment options should also be considered; you can also have patients fill in information digitally prior to their arrival rather than using pen and paper at the clinic.
The More Room, the Better
Ample spaces with tall ceiling heights, plenty of sunlight, and that allow adequate social distancing are vital – not just for health reasons, but for perception as well. The healthcare spaces of today should ensure both staff and patients feel comfortable and can maintain appropriate distancing. This is also critical given that approved occupancy levels may adjust up or down without warning.
Beyond the Exam Room
The shift towards flexible, people-centered spaces has long been underway, and COVID-19 has certainly driven new interest in them. Staff can use these spaces to collaborate, plan, or undertake professional development, while the general public can be welcomed into them for community-oriented health and wellness activities. These spaces can serve multiple purposes, making them a solid investment, but at their core, they’re designed to facilitate community-building and to foster relationships.
Say Hello to Tele-consult Spaces
Although in-person visits have largely resumed, telehealth will continue to play an increased role in the provision of care. Medical spaces need to be appointed with telehealth-friendly suites that allow for privacy while also ensuring appropriate uptime and connectivity. These rooms are likely to differ in size and design from typical exam rooms and may involve more complex AV functionality.
COVID-19 has dramatically changed how we experience healthcare and what we expect from it. Adapting your healthcare space to meet the changing needs of a post-COVID world will help ensure that patients and staff feel safe, both physically and emotionally. Either rethinking your current space or looking for new medical space overall will be essential in allowing you to deliver care that exceeds expectations. For more information about what’s next in post-COVID 19 healthcare design, or for recommendations for your clinic, get in touch with the expert team at GZ Realty.