Hospitals, healthcare facilities and medical office buildings are all faced with the same problem—how can they provide quality care at a low cost to more patients? More people than ever have health insurance, which is affecting the way healthcare real estate takes shape.
According to a report from the US Census Bureau last year, the uninsured population hit record lows, with about 90 percent of people having health insurance. More people means that maximizing every inch of space is crucial.
John Wilson, President of Corporate Real Estate Services at HSA Commercial and HSA PrimeCare, has spent more than 25 years in the real estate industry, and in 1995 initiated a healthcare real estate advisory initiative that eventually grew into PrimeCare. He told RE Journals that throughout the years healthcare facilities and medical office buildings have been inching away from the cold, clinical aesthetic. Most newly constructed buildings focus on natural light, creating airy waiting rooms and less confined hallways and carving out more shared spaces for hospital staff to promote collaboration.
“Hospitals and healthcare providers approach real estate in a much different way because of what they do. They’re delivering care and medicine to people so the real estate really reacts to what services are required in the building,” said Wilson.
Decentralized check-in desks are one trend being implemented. With these check-in areas, patients enter the building and use kiosks to check-in for their appointment online and wait in a specified exam room for their doctor. This strategy streamlines the check-in process, putting less stress on the patient and medical staff. When space is used like this, it allows other traditional areas, such as waiting rooms, to be reworked so that they are more relevant.
Many of the changes being seen in MOB and hospitals are a direct result of evidence-based design, said Wilson. New trends seen in the market are often a result of studies or research out of Center for Health Design, a California-based firm, Wilson said. Everything from acoustics to color palettes affect how patients and staff feel. There are even hospitals that now have musical instruments set up for patients to play.
An example of evidence-based design can be seen in the new Froedtert & the Medical College of Wisconsin Drexel Town Square Health Center located at 7901 S. 6th St. in Oak Creek, Wisconsin.
The new primary and specialty health care center, developed by HSA PrimeCare, is 109,000 square feet with a 425-space parking garage, and will open this January. The center will offer family and pediatric medicine, obstetrics and gynecology, urgent care and specialty care including dermatology, orthopedics and sports medicine, neurology, plastic surgery and eight more. There will also be an outpatient surgery center, cancer center, pharmacy and lab services.
A total of 39 physicians, physician assistants and nurse practitioners are expected to practice at the health center. In the past, a MOB might have featured several different providers, but, Wilson said, the market is seeing more single providers occupying whole buildings.
The location of the health center is deliberate. Froedtert wanted to provide a health center in a residential area as a close-to-home option. The combination of services is thoughtful and meant to be a “one-stop shop” for patients, Wilson said. Hospital staff also benefit from a location like this with nearby restaurants, shops and a newly built library and city hall.
The design is just as thoughtful with dual-access exam rooms. The area is designed with an oval-shaped shared workspace for hospital staff and doctors, surrounding that area are the exam rooms and the outer-most layer where patients check-in. Patients head directly to the exam room through one door, and then doctors enter through the second door. This design cuts down on wait times, provides an uninterrupted workspace for staff and allows doctors to discuss work, Wilson said.
“The hard part is getting the patients trained in these new operations. There needs to be more education for patients, seniors in particular. The goal is to make the experience more efficient and comfortable,” Wilson said.
One of the biggest drivers in healthcare is the Baby Boomer generation, said Wilson. The industry is shifting to patient-focused care, and making sure services are convenient for that age group. Research and technology also push the design of healthcare facilities into new territory. Those rows and rows of papers and manila folders are gone, and for the most part, Wilson said, records are kept electronically—all the information is wireless and optimized for a high-speed delivery.
“The quality of care is getting increasingly better in shorter periods of time, and less invasive too,” Wilson said.