by Dan Rafter
Patients today don’t want to stay overnight in a hospital, if they can possibly avoid it. And they want healthcare options close to their homes — a choice of freestanding clinics, emergency rooms and specialty care centers.
All of this is changing the way that medical providers grow their real estate. Instead of building new, sprawling hospital campuses, more providers are investing in smaller clinics, many of them located outside major urban areas. And that is changing the way that developers with strong healthcare presences do their jobs.
Just ask Keith Konkoli, senior vice president of Midwest healthcare for Indianapolis-based Duke Realty.
“We are seeing more outpatient facilities and more facilities out in the communities,” Konkoli said. “But we are also seeing a difference in the way that these facilities are designed. They are being designed and planned more from a patient-centered way.”
This requires Konkoli and other real estate pros to think more like a patient.
“Many of the current facilities are not meeting the specific needs of patients today,” Konkoli said.
Today, medical providers want to enhance the patient experience from the moment they sign in at a clinic or register at a hospital emergency room, Konkoli said. This means a quicker registration process with a check-in process that is flexible. Some patients might prefer registering in person. Others might instead do so online.
Other providers are experimenting with ways to move patients more quickly from large waiting rooms to smaller exam rooms. These providers might move patients into an exam room as soon as they register so that they don’t have to wait 30 minutes in a crowded waiting room.
Providers are also taking steps to get patients more involved in their healthcare. This includes adding educational spaces to medical facilities for classes and workshops. Others are setting patients up with entire team of medical professionals instead of just one physician.
This requires facilities that are often smaller and located closer to even those patients who live far from a central, large-scale hospital.
“It’s all about making medical care more efficient,” Konkoli said. “Instead of having patients spend an entire day getting treatment, they are gone for just half-an-hour.”
Konkoli also predicts a rise in tele-medicine, in which patients consult with physicians more often by phone and video. This, too, can greatly reduce crowds at waiting rooms and result in quicker visits to healthcare professionals.
What does this mean for healthcare real estate? Konkoli says that it’s possible to divide outpatient medical real estate today into five main types: the basic walk-in clinics you might find in a Walgreens or CvS; the traditional primary care medical office; full-service medical office buildings; specialty care facilities that offer such services as surgery, lab and imaging; and hospitals with or without beds.
“This means that we have to be more flexible with helping our healthcare clients implement their strategies,” Konkoli said. “We might help them find a small clinic. We might assist them in the development of a small regional hospital with or without beds. They are looking for real estate providers to assist them in deploying their ambulatory strategy. It’s about helping them define it and doing whatever it takes to help them serve their patients.”