Emerging Healthcare Real Estate Trends

Recently, I had the pleasure of moderating two panels about healthcare real estate trends in New Jersey and beyond. The first was for the New York chapter of the Society for Marketing Professional Services, where I was accompanied by two experts in healthcare facilities planning, panelists Americo (Rico) Crincoli of Barnabas Health and Chris Culver of Rendina Healthcare Real Estate. At the second panel, Stephen Barry of Rendina Healthcare Real Estate, Michael Azarian of Ronald Schmidt and Associates, and Stephen Aluotto of NK Architects joined me in a discussion about ambulatory care for the Mid-Atlantic Real Estate Journal NJ Healthcare and Medical Properties Summit. Both events featured moderated discourse regarding current and prospective trends in healthcare facilities, providing audiences with a glimpse of what they can expect from their healthcare providers in the future, and which I’d like to share with you.

Ambulatory Care Centers

With a greater population covered by health insurance, as a result of the Affordable Care Act, there is a demand for increased access to healthcare and many Americans are seeking treatment from alternative sources. Providers have responded in a variety of ways to these market forces. Many hospitals have repurposed inpatient hospital space to accommodate more outpatient services and medical offices are merging with ambulatory care centers, or are constructing ambulatory care centers, where patients can undergo minor, less risky surgeries at a lower cost to both the patient and the hospital.

Retail Health Care Centers

We are in the midst of a convenience revolution in healthcare. Like other aspects of our busy lives, we are looking for treatment options that are fast, convenient, less expensive, and high-quality. Major retailers such as CVS, Walmart, and Walgreens have capitalized on this opportunity by opening hundreds of walk-in clinics where people can quickly receive treatment from a nurse practitioner or physician assistant. Customers can stop in after work, pay a set price to be seen for a particular treatment, and have prescriptions filled on-site after their consultation. While they may not replace every doctor’s office or a hospital, the arrival of these community-based centers is creating competition and market pressures for traditional health care providers, forcing them to adapt to patient demands and expectations.

hospital courtyard

Patient-Centered Approaches

Healthcare providers have moved toward a patient-centered approach, focused on making the patient experience more comfortable and less stressful. Collaborative models, in which teams of doctors work together on a treatment plan for one patient, are becoming more prevalent, since this model reduces the need to see multiple specialists at different physical locations. To accommodate this model, new outpatient facilities are bringing physicians together where they can collaborate and share resources while offering greater patient convenience. Healthcare facility design is changing to focus on promoting a healing environment complete with views of nature, planned outdoor spaces, and amenitized rooms and waiting areas that resemble hotels rather than hospitals.

Mergers and Acquisitions

In recent years, we have seen a nationwide trend of hospital acquisitions by large healthcare systems as well as systems merging with each other. This year, New Jersey's healthcare environment changed dramatically with Prime Healthcare taking over the Saint Clare's Health System and St. Michael's Hospital in Newark, Summit Health Management converging with Hackensack University Health Network, and Barnabas Health merging with Robert Wood Johnson Health System to form New Jersey's largest healthcare system and one of the largest in the nation, RWJ Barnabas Health. From a facilities standpoint, mergers allow healthcare systems to place resources across larger geographies and to establish centers of excellence. As these changes occur, inpatient spaces are often being repurposed to outpatient uses and smaller specialty hospitals will begin to emerge.

Clara Maass Medical Center's beam signing
Clara Maass Medical Center's beam signing on December 8th marked a milestone in the 87,000-square-foot expansion, which includes two levels of medical office building space.

Looking Forward

The rapidly changing technological environment that we live in creates great promise and challenges to healthcare facilities. In the future, we can expect to be treated in fully digital hospitals equipped with already existing automated kiosks, where patients can enter their information, and robots, that will distribute medication and position patients during X-ray procedures. As a result, facilities must adapt and be designed in ways that are flexible for future technologies. Moving forward, as new developments, mergers, and acquisitions continue, the healthcare real estate industry can expect the need for new and expanded healthcare facilities to continue to be a strong market force.

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