It has become easier for consumers to finding a health professional nearby and on short notice – even in the evening or on weekends. Check-ups, minor illnesses and vaccinations can now be handled at supermarkets, pharmacies and other retail outlets, while stand-alone urgent care and outpatient surgery centers are cropping up in neighborhoods where people live and shop. In a nod to the trend, gargantuan hospital systems are opening compact outposts closer to their patients.
“Health care is coming to the patient, rather than the patient traveling to the health care provider. It’s all about ensuring a convenient location and positive experience,” says Paul Wexler, founder of Wexler Healthcare Properties at the Corcoran Group in New York. A 2018 CBRE report found the number of outpatient clinics had increased 51% between 2005 and 2016 to 26,863.
There are many reasons behind the proliferation of medical facilities. Demographics, technology and the Affordable Care Act have created “seismic change,” says Wexler. The two largest demographic groups, the boomers and the millennials, both covet convenience, though their health care needs are vastly different. As a result, he says, hospitals are shifting their focus from building more hospitals to providing care outside their main complex.
Wexler’s group recently leased 68,000 square feet to Manhattan’s Hospital for Special Surgery to build a state-of-the-art ambulatory surgery center and diagnostic center on the opposite side of the city from the hospital’s main site. “This is a great benefit for consumers who do not want to commute to different facilities for health care services,” said Wexler, a real estate professional with 34 years’ experience in the health care real estate sphere.
In the past, a typical doctor’s office was 1,000 to 2,000 square feet; today a standard health care space ranges from 3,000 square feet to more than 8,000 square feet, Wexler notes. These spaces may accommodate primary care, pharmacy, ambulatory surgery and subspecialties in a one-stop experience.
More compact medical equipment, the emergence of virtual care and ACA mandates requiring cost-effective care are further accelerating the migration of services away from hospitals. Consequently, Wexler notes, traditional health care systems and groups are reevaluating their space, either consolidating, selling off or repurposing new properties – a trend that should continue regardless of what happens with the affordable care law.