By William E. Molloy and Tracy Altemus, Ensemble Real Estate Solutions
With the implementation of healthcare reform and rapidly changing technology, we know healthcare is going to look very different in the near future. Will medical services be located in re-purposed strip malls?
Or, will healthcare facilities be modeled after airline terminals to provide operational efficiency, increased volume and satisfy differences in patient groups such as Baby Boomers versus the Millennials?
No one has a crystal ball to enable us to see all of the changes. However, working with one of our strategic partners, Devenney Group Ltd. Architects, we developed ideas and trends we see for the medical office of the future, the delivery of healthcare and its real estate needs.
>> What will change?
After many years of talking about the patient-centered medical home, we will finally see a broader adaptation of this model. A much more collaborative environment will encourage a multi-disciplinary (1), whole health approach to patient care. Practices will continue to join larger health systems, or develop strategic alliances among practices to meet patient needs.
Medical practices will need to comply with new healthcare delivery regulations while striving to provide high quality but cost effective care. As insurers move into care delivery, integrated billing systems and other services will need to be shared for cost efficiencies.
Technology advances will continue to impact many areas of a medical practice as healthcare practitioners use many new tools–from electronic medical records (EMR) to self-check-in kiosks to telemedicine for seeing patients.
>> What needs to change?
Retail will be the new buzz word in healthcare as consumers will “shop” for healthcare services, especially elective procedures. They will have many more choices for their healthcare so practitioners will need to focus on attracting and retaining patients. Some of the competition will come from retail companies such as Walgreens, CVS or Rite-Aid that are already aligning themselves with healthcare systems to offer services.
Healthcare practitioners and systems
will need to cater their services to provide a continuum of care for the life of a patient by providing convenient, easy to find and easy to use services. To satisfy some patients, this may mean providing high touch, low tech services.
Overall, healthcare providers will need to create a better patient experience — affordable elegance with a more home-like feel.
>> How will these changes affect the design and function of medical offices?
Location and physical building are big factors in a medical practice’s ability to deliver high-quality, cost effective care. One of the first steps in determining a practice’s real estate needs should be doing a cost analysis between renovating an existing building versus constructing a new facility. The analysis will help to evaluate whether renovation can be done cost effectively to comply with new regulations.
Because of the many expected changes in healthcare delivery, flexibility in design will be key. Medical practices will need modular spaces that are easily configurable. With the growing trend of sharing spaces and services, designs may include shared waiting areas for several practices, central hand-washing areas, private offices shared among physicians, and waiting areas that are used after hours for patient group visits to leverage peer support (1).
We will see fewer built-ins as interior spaces are finished so the space remains flexible. With the adoption of EMR, less space will be needed for hard files. Using the self-check-in/check-out kiosks, patients may also receive their “boarding pass” to proceed to the appropriate exam room to begin their visit — reducing the space needed for a practice’s front desk.
One of the ways that owners of medical office buildings can recoup some of their costs is by adding services that generate revenue. Adding services such as a coffee shop or daycare that can be used by staff and patients can offset some building costs.
Some physicians may choose to cater to patients who elect to pay for healthcare services themselves rather than use insurance. These patients may require more “concierge” care with separate waiting and exam areas or separate clinic entrances.
In the future, it may be very common to have hotels built near hospitals — not just for patient families but for the patients who don’t need to be hospitalized to receive recuperative care from their physicians.
Healthcare delivery is at a transformational moment. Some of the above ideas are already happening. Physicians and healthcare administrators need to be continually looking ahead to future needs for their facilities to meet the needs of their patients and comply with new regulations. They also need to continually challenge the professionals in our industry to be innovative and help them plan for their future real estate needs.
William E. Molloy is Managing Director/CEO and Tracy Altemus is Executive Vice President, Healthcare Brokerage Services, for Ensemble Real Estate Solutions (ensemblere.com). The full-service real estate firm offers healthcare-specific development, management, leasing and sales services including both landlord and tenant/buyer representation.
(1) Health Care Advisory Board “Re-envisioning Today’s Clinic”