by Dan Rafter
Here is what patients don’t want today: They don’t want to wait for hours for treatment at a sprawling hospital campus. They don’t want to spend an entire day waiting for X-rays or a diagnosis from a swamped emergency room doctor.
Instead, patients are increasingly seeking treatment away from central hospitals and at stand-alone clinics or outpatient treatment centers.
This is changing the way developers and medical providers work together. Developers and hospitals are working to build new outpatient facilities designed to bring medical services closer to the population, and to get patients seen by doctors, treated and home in as little time as possible.
Keith Konkoli, executive vice president for healthcare for Indianapolis-based Duke Realty, is seeing this trend playing out now. And he doesn’t see it tapering off any time soon.
“Hospitals do want to move healthcare out of the inpatient hospital as often as possible and into an outpatient setting,” Konkoli said. “A procedure that might have required an overnight stay just two years ago is now going to an outpatient setting. They want patients treated and out of their facilities as quickly as possible.”
It’s not surprising that outpatient facilities are making up a large percentage of the healthcare facilities developers are building across the Midwest today. Patients are demanding that medical care be more convenient.
And patients, after all, are the customers of hospitals. When the customer wants something? You need to deliver it.
“To the extent that you can make the outpatient setting more convenient to the patient, that’s even better,” Konkoli said. “Moving these facilities closer to the communities where people live and work? That’s the ultimate goal.”
It’s not much fun going to a major hospital campus for treatment. Central hospitals are often located in the middle of big cities, not easy for many of their patients to get to. They might lack adequate parking. Once patients reach them, they might struggle to find their way around hospital campuses that often resemble small cities themselves.
The changing demands of patients requires companies like Duke Realty to adapt, too. They have to work closely with hospitals to create facilities that provide patients with the most convenient ways to access medical care.
“We are helping our clients execute on their real estate strategies,” Konkoli said. “We help them find the right ambulatory care decision for a particular market. Where should they locate an outpatient facility? What services should that facility offer? What makes the most sense in a given location?”
For instance, a hospital can open everything from a rehabilitation center to an ambulatory care clinic to freestanding emergency department throughout the communities they serve. Companies like Duke work with these medical providers to determine which of these options will not only serve the greatest number of patients but will turn out to be the most cost-effective use of a hospital’s construction dollars.
“The changing healthcare industry is providing opportunities not only for us, but for a lot of folks in this industry,” Konkoli said.