Medtail facility insights
- Medtail can be seen as a quick and easy way for patients to obtain medical services without going to a hospital or doctor’s office.
- Changes in medical care, including telehealth, have driven the design of health care facilities in different directions.
As shoppers navigate the parking lot of their favorite retail area, they may notice some new tenants. Sitting among the standard array of stores and restaurants, they will see facilities dedicated to health care. These medtail locations offer frequently used medical services without the inconvenience of driving to the hospital. The growth of medtail providers is changing people’s expectations of health care and making hospitals rethink their design priorities.
What is medtail?
Medtail is the health care trend of placing medical services in a retail space. The medtail movement began with retail pharmacies offering expanded on-site health services. In addition to filling prescriptions, a nurse practitioner or physician assistant could diagnose common medical issues. This service is perfect for a family looking for a fast medical solution for a child with a sore throat or earache. Receiving a diagnosis and filling a prescription at the same location saves time. It also prevents a trip to the emergency room or trying to schedule an appointment at a busy doctor’s office.
Once the model was in place, other groups saw the benefits of expanding services outside a traditional health care setting. Urgent care centers and imaging services realized that offering convenience to patients was a profitable choice.
Types of medtail services
Although it began with an urgent care focus, more specialized services have adopted the medtail model. Sports medicine and physical therapy centers can often find more spacious facilities in retail areas. It also helps to place a sports-centered clinic near stores where patients purchase their equipment.
Dialysis and infusion centers have also benefited from the medtail trend. By taking these services out of the hospital, the center can offer a friendlier, calmer environment that caters to patient needs. Operating in a larger retail space allows the facility to see more patients without feeling crowded.
Imaging facilities represent another entry into this health care model. One of the frustrations of imaging tests at a hospital is scheduled appointments postponed by emergencies. In a medtail location, the facility only handles scheduled tests, so interruptions are less frequent. These locations can also offer equipment like open MRIs that are more comfortable for clients.
Because medtail locations are not under the control of a health care system, they can include holistic and alternative treatments in addition to standard care. A physical therapy location could offer massage and acupuncture services. An infusion center might include breathwork or meditation for calming as part of its offerings.
Factors in the rise of medtail
Medtail started as a response to the general inconvenience of health care. Many health care systems worked with a centralized model of medicine. For patients, this arrangement meant traveling to a large facility, navigating its hallways and losing a good portion of the day for what could be a 15-minute appointment. An in-store clinic could alleviate the frustration.
At first, the lack of retail space limited most medtail locations to in-store operations. However, in the early 2000s, the rise of online shopping led to retail closures. This change created space for medtail clinics in prime locations.
The COVID-19 virus has also encouraged the growth of new health care options. During the worst part of the pandemic, patients were uncomfortable making unnecessary trips to the hospital. Urgent care centers offered less crowded, more convenient options for testing and vaccinations.
The limits of medtail
Many patients love the convenience of a medtail location. It is often closer to their homes with plenty of free parking. Scheduling is also more predictable because a visit takes less time out of the day. These facilities can be ideal in a nonemergency situation.
However, when an emergency arises, it demonstrates the limits of the model. An urgent care center is not an emergency room. While these facilities have crash carts and defibrillators for sudden cardiac events, life-threatening cases will involve an ambulance taking the patient to the hospital.
Surgical suites demonstrate another limitation of medtail facilities. Keeping these areas sterile requires specially designed air filtration systems and other expensive infrastructure. Although some medtail facilities offer minor procedures performed under a local anesthetic, major surgeries remain in the realm of hospitals.
Health systems and the influence of medtail
For decades, medical care remained centralized around a hospital campus. Doctors found it more convenient to locate their offices in buildings near a major health care center. As the number of medtail locations increases, health care systems are also adopting the model. Patients can find urgent care centers affiliated with the hospital in retail locations near their homes.
As more doctors adopt decentralized practices — like remote medicine — the need for a central medical campus decreases. Doctors who do not depend on hospital facilities can relocate to the areas where they can best serve their patients or attach themselves to existing medtail facilities.
Hospital design and medtail
The rise of medtail is one of several factors changing how patients interact with hospitals. Low-level cases that might have gone to an emergency room can now receive a diagnosis and treatment at a retail location. Trends like telehealth and home health care also keep patients out of centralized health care centers for follow-up care. At the same time, the lack of available hospital beds in the early parts of the COVID-19 pandemic demonstrated the need for more space devoted to critical illnesses.
The overriding result of these changes is that more patients admitted to the hospital will be in serious condition. From a design perspective, this means making choices like expanding emergency rooms and equipping them to handle more critical care patients.
With the expansion of medtail, hospitals must also focus on services that patients cannot receive elsewhere. This emphasis will mean less space for infusion and physical therapy facilities and more space devoted to surgical suites, intensive care units and general patient beds.
The health care industry is amid a paradigm shift. As health care systems adapt to a decentralized model, more patients will receive care outside of traditional facilities and enjoy the convenience of medtail services.
– Downtown Ecommerce Partners (DEP) is a CFE Media and Technology content partner.
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