The healthcare system is undergoing an evolutionary change that some might call revolutionary. Initially, we were focused on inpatient care beds within a hospital.

We then evolved to outpatient care or getting care on an outpatient basis but still in a facility. Now, we are getting care via telemedicine virtually over the internet. I suspect that this is not where it ends.

While virtual care may offer convenience, one must consider what impact using the virtual care setting may have on the interpersonal relationships between the patient and the caregiver. This, I suspect, could ultimately lead to patient turnover for businesses that rely solely on virtual means to see patients.

We seem to be headed towards the position that we may not need the traditional bricks and mortar settings.  Granted, we might not ever need the same quantity of beds as previously used, or we may not need the same level of outpatient capacity, but what type of physical structure we will need remains the big question.

It’s easy to jump to the conclusion that as health care evolves, we will not need a large physical plant any longer. We see health systems collapsing their office spaces and instead offering a rotation of space for use as patients and clinicians visit specific facilities.

There may be efficiencies in reducing this type of overhead and even some administrative staff functions, but what about the direct care functions?  What about the patient – will the virtual setting be right or enough for them? I doubt it. We are going to evolve and expand staff on the care side but where will they reside? Will they float or reside somewhere?

An amoeba is a cell structure that grows and changes shape as it does. I see the healthcare delivery system being like an amoeba. It will evolve but randomly change shape as it evolves into the future, and this may be different depending on geography.

This will make predicting what to do with our physical plant investments very complicated at best. I suspect that the more we remain flexible in our physical investments the better our relative position will be.

Read an earlier Ted’s Take to better understand how healthcare evolutions impact leadership – and therefore costs.

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Jayne Koskinas Ted Giovanis
Foundation for Health and Policy

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