Last Updated on May 5, 2022 by Andrew Flint
Telehealth has been around for decades, yet most people still made a habit of seeing their doctors in person. Come 2020, however, all of that changed. The Mayo Clinic, for one, saw a 78% decline in in-person visits from mid-March to mid-April throughout its care delivery system. Of course, people didn’t forgo medical care altogether. They simply chose what was a safer, more convenient alternative at the time, ushering in what some might call virtual medicine’s breakout moment. The Mayo Clinic’s video visits alone jumped an astounding 10,880% during this time, and digital health investments have now tripled from 2017 to 2020 across the entire healthcare industry.
Although in-person visits are now rebounding, patients have since adapted to the hybrid nature of connected care. In fact, telehealth accounts for 17% of all outpatient claims across healthcare specialties, and with the increased adoption of mobile health, digital medical devices, and wearable technology, digital healthcare solutions are more than fueling the healthtech vertical. They’re changing the physical health clinic model.
This might lead some people to believe that you’ll never need to visit a doctor’s office again. Not necessarily. The adoption of digital health tech has simply created new expectations among patients for data-driven, personalized healthcare. As a result, healthcare real estate strategies going forward should reflect this shift.
The Roles of Outpatient Services Within Healthcare Delivery
By and large, the new outpatient healthcare real estate trend is the repositioning of medical care, with expansion of specialized clinics in neighborhoods further away from urban medical centers and adoption of telehealth. This isn’t to say large hospital campuses won’t have a place in the future, but the use of outpatient services continues to climb. A Deloitte study found that such services accounted for 47% of total hospital revenue in 2016. With the added convenience of both neighborhood and mobile health clinics, continued growth is likely inevitable.
The trend also allows providers to take on smaller spaces in more community-centric locations — helping to not only cut costs and improve efficiency in healthcare, but also remove many of the barriers to healthcare access. Set up a mobile health clinic, and a provider can offer value-based services (including general checkups, flu shots, blood pressure checks, and so on) to underserved populations across any region.
Considerations for Future Healthcare Real Estate Strategies
With the future of medicine looking more community-centric and digitized to improve speed and efficiency in healthcare, the time has come to rethink healthcare real estate strategies. Just a few years ago, “medtail,” or medical retail, wasn’t a thing. Now, you’ll find everything from urgent care and mental health services to wellness centers and veterinary clinics setting up shop in once-vacant retail spaces. Such real estate decisions bring specialized healthcare services much closer to patients, meeting people where they spend more of their time. Even Occupier’s own data seems to verify this shift: Looking at our own aggregated data across healthcare-related companies, portfolios have grown by 45% over the past year.
At the core of the healthcare transformation, you’ll find a mixture of tech adoption and creative real estate strategies. With that in mind, consider the following as you work toward improving efficiency in healthcare:
1. An omnichannel approach to healthcare.
A recent Avtex survey found that 62% of patients preferred to talk to providers on the phone, 50% preferred in-person visits, and roughly 31% preferred email, mobile apps, or online chat. If you hope to be all things to all patients, the melding of digital, physical, and personal touchpoints and an omnichannel approach will increase the chances of success. The retail vertical has certainly tested and implemented this model with favorable outcomes, and COVID-19 forced healthcare providers of all sizes to quickly adopt new telehealth, real estate, and personalized strategies.
2. The rise in community clinics.
The real estate model in healthcare is undergoing a transformation. Younger health-conscious consumers and aging clientele alike prefer specialized community-centric healthcare options. They want to run errands, grab lunch, and check in with their doctors, all within close proximity to their homes. One Medical understood this when it acquired Iora Health in the fall of 2021. The move expanded its footprint across the nation, encompassing 28 geographies and 40% of the U.S. population.
3. More welcoming healthcare spaces.
Gone are the days of stuffy, impersonal hospital visits with fluorescent lights and cold, uninviting designs. Consumers expect modern, warm, and welcoming spaces with tech-enabled solutions for their in-person healthcare visit. The creation of inviting spaces that reduce stress, use elements of nature, provide innovative seating, and leverage technology will become an industry standard during physical health clinic visits.
The way patients interact with healthcare spaces has evolved, becoming much more experiential and digital in nature. Healthcare providers must lead the way in occupying clinic spaces located within neighborhoods to provide convenience and accessibility. They must also provide access to the digital solutions consumers have grown accustomed to throughout other areas of their lives. Doing anything otherwise could impact business in the future.