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Telehealth Is Already Penetrating The South Florida Healthcare Market

Telehealth — healthcare provided remotely via phone or internet connections — has already begun to penetrate the South Florida market. Commercial real estate professionals are watching this sector, as it could transform, or make obsolete, functions of traditional medical offices and hospitals.

Aurelio Fernandez, president and C​EO, Memorial Healthcare System; Ben Riestra, chief administrative officer, Lennar Foundation Medical Center, UHealth, Miller School of Medicine; Peter Baronoff, chairman and CEO, Promise Healthcare Inc.; Randy Parker, founder, MDLive

MDLive, founded by Randy Parker in 2009, has created cloud-based Virtual Medical Office software, through which patients can videoconference with providers, get diagnosed and have prescriptions sent to pharmacies. Combining technological advances in virtual reality, artificial intelligence and big data, MDLive has also created an artificial intelligence-powered chatbot.

These days, Parker said, biometric data like blood pressure and EKGs can be gathered and transmitted with devices as simple as smartphone apps and Fitbits. At Bisnow's South Florida Healthcare event last week, Parker said that "there needs to be a balance between human interaction and the computer."

Providers are warming to telehealth because it is efficient and scalable, he said. According to MDLive's website, its service is typically used to diagnose and treat non-emergency conditions like fever, acne, rashes, addictions, depression and trauma.

Kaiser Permanente's CEO has said that virtual visits have outpaced in-person visits since 2015. Miami-Dade Schools this week sent a letter to parents that development screens and record reviews will be handled by a partnership with Nicklaus Children's Hospital via "telehealth technology" and "virtual visit[s] by a registered nurse."

"We're embracing virtual care," Lennar Foundation Medical Center at the Miller School of Medicine Chief Administrative Officer Ben Riestra said. "We recognize that individuals today don't want to go to hospitals, go to clinical care facilities. But how do you incorporate that into the continuum of care?"

With the yearslong shift from inpatient toward outpatient services continuing, Riestra said he is focused on getting people in and out of appointments efficiently. He has consulted with institutions that process high volumes of people, like Disney and airports. By incorporating check-in kiosks, he has been able to reduce the time spent registering from six minutes to two minutes.

Memorial Healthcare System CEO Aurelio Fernandez said at his facilities, patients get iPads. Rather than needing to wait for a nurse or doctor to bring lab results or X-rays, those can be available instantly on the iPad, "and if they're bored, they can access Netflix."

Promise Healthcare Chairman and CEO Peter Baronoff said patients expect a degree of human interaction, but conceded "there's a pie of dollars — and it's limited."

Welltower Senior Vice President Mike Noto, Arthur J. Gallagher & Co. Producer Lauren Vidal, Baptist Health of South Florida Vice President Kathleen Moorman, JLL Vice President Samer Hamde and Stantec Architecture & Design Principal, Healthcare, Eduardo Egea

Telehealth could be a valuable tool, but it should not draw hospital and healthcare attention away from providing the best care possible.

Mixed feelings about the automation of healthcare were evident in audience comments. During a question-and-answer session, one attendee noted that during a recent health scare, she was directed to contact a provider via phone, but was uncomfortable with that, so went to the emergency room. But another attendee said use of a kiosk sped up a recent appointment. She was thankful the providers were mindful of her time.

All the panelists lamented that privacy and hacking concerns have stalled digital sharing of medical records. The lag was resulting in unnecessary double-testing, they said.

If banks can transmit info instantaneously, Banks and Riestra argued medical providers ought to have that ability.

"We lobby for it every day," Riestra said.

The digital shift is inevitable, they acknowledged, especially as tech-savvy millennials come of age. Even hospital parking garages might soon be obsolete.

Until robots take over the world, patients still need the human touch, Baronoff said. His facilities have incorporated touches like higher ceilings and chairs that convert into beds so family members can stay with patients. Fernandez extolled the same virtues.

"You'll never hear in any of our facilities, 'It's 8 p.m., visiting hours are over,'" he said.

Related Topics: Miami, telehealth