Hassell Talks

A shot in the arm: How COVID-19 transformed telehealth and hospital design

June 18, 2021

Finding it both necessary and convenient, patients and clinicians across Australia embraced the change brought about by COVID-19 and took to telehealth in huge numbers – jumping from one million service events in March 2020 to six million a month later in April.

Healthcare is traditionally an area that can be slow to change, so this leap in uptake was a novel event in itself.

Under pandemic restrictions, clinicians didn’t have much of a choice. But the switch to telehealth wasn’t as simple as just turning on a computer or making a call, particularly in hospital settings where space and infrastructure are hard to come by.

We wanted to find out what the telehealth experiences of healthcare workers in Australian hospitals was like during 2020, and the implications for the spaces we design.

In collaboration with The University of Queensland’s Centre for Online Health, we discovered that hospital infrastructure in Australia is ill-equipped to accommodate the spaces needed for successful delivery of telehealth services during a pandemic. And with telehealth here to stay, that means these spaces are also left wanting in a future that is almost certain to include a greater mix of both in-person and telehealth consultations.

For episode 3 in season 2 of Hassell Talks, Senior Researcher Michaela Sheahan looks at what this means for the way new hospitals are designed or existing hospitals are reconfigured – and the almost once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to rethink the way healthcare is offered. She’s joined by Hassell Principal Leanne Guy as well as Karen Lucas, Senior Telehealth Coordinator for Metro South Hospital and Health Service and Dr Emma Thomas, Research Fellow at the Centre for Health Services Research, The University of Queensland.

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