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

Chaotic is a great description. We went from this really nice, slow-paced, do it the right way’ approach to everyone wanting it, and everyone wanting it right now.” 

Karen Lucas
Senior telehealth coordinator, Metro South Hospital and Health Service, Brisbane 

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. 

We have to be able to mobilise quickly, whether it’s a pandemic or a different way of working, but we still want to have activated, lively healthcare spaces and that means people. So how do we do that safely?

Leanne Guy
Principal, Hassell

In collaboration with The University of Queensland’s Centre for Online Health, our research 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.

Listen to the podcast via the player below. You can find Hassell Talks on Apple, Spotify or on your favourite podcast app.

Read the research report.


Season 2: Episode 3


Michaela Sheahan, Hassell


Dr Emma Thomas, Research Fellow, Centre for Health Services Research, The University of Queensland
Karen Lucas, Senior telehealth coordinator, Metro South Hospital and Health Service, Brisbane
Leanne Guy, Hassell


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Most clinicians … want to be able to move flexibly between hybrid models of care, where they can see one person in-person, and then use that same setting to then be able to jump online and see another person that might be based at home.”

Dr Emma Thomas Research Fellow, Centre for Health Services Research, The University of Queensland

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