There are many trends sweeping across the healthcare industry which will directly impact the medical office space. Existing structures may have to be redesigned to meet the sector’s changing needs while properties in the design stages will begin incorporating emerging trends into their design concepts. Three trends that I predict will impact physical office space for private practices are the advent of telehealth, value-based care, and outpatient care.
According to a recent survey, in the last few years, “the public’s and the healthcare industry’s recognition of the benefits of telehealth has continually increased. While the shortage of behavioral health providers has long been acknowledged, the use of telehealth technologies, including practice management systems and online patient portals, to provide greater access to behavioral health professionals has increasingly gained traction and continues to gain validation as an alternative model of care delivery.” In addition, there has been a growing recognition and acceptance of the telehealth model at the federal and state regulatory levels. And, more importantly, according to a recent article in Health Leaders Media, many states have resolved parity issues, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services has proposed changes to their payment policy to allow for telehealth visits starting in 2019, and Next Generation ACOs will include a telehealth waiver that allows for an expanded benefit where geographic location will not be the determining factor for coverage of the service. This expanded accessibility to telehealth will increase the need for virtual care consultation rooms in practices of all sizes and specialties. Existing structures may find that they need to redesign their current layout or expand to accommodate for the growing virtual care model demand by both patients and payers.
Growth in the value-based care model will also have an impact on office space needs. As more healthcare facilities and practitioners transition toward a value-based model, consultations will move from a transactional model to one that puts the results and quality of care first. This model has resulted in proven increases in patient satisfaction and well-being along with cost savings. A recent survey by ORC International commissioned by Change Healthcare and as reported by HIT Consultant found that “almost 80% of payers report improvements in care quality, while 64% report improvements in provider relationships and 73% report patient engagement improved—significant headway toward achieving the elusive “triple aim” of healthcare through value-based care initiatives.”
This growing trend which includes improving the patient experience will focus on a more comprehensive approach to healthcare including:
- Greater cooperation across specialties and with the patient’s GP. This, I predict, will also increase the demand for larger consultation rooms that include technology for virtual consultations with the patient, GP, and other physicians
- Focus on the space with medical offices providing for greater comfort and a more pleasant patient experience from lighting to seating to outdoor waiting areas
Outpatient care is also a growing trend. As reported by Deloitte Insights, hospital outpatient care is growing while inpatient stays are declining. In fact, according to the report, “hospital inpatient stays have declined 6.6 percent over the past decade despite population growth and demographic shifts (such as an increasingly older, sicker Medicare population).”
Outpatient care facilities are seeing an increase in demand and may soon need to expand their footprint to accommodate the growth. According to the same Deloitte report, some of these facilities include:
- Imaging service facilities
- Emergency departments
- Primary care clinics
- Retail clinics
- Community health clinics
- Ambulatory surgery centers
- Specialized outpatient clinics
- Urgent care centers
All of these trends are positive indicators of a thriving and healthy sector evolving to meet the market’s needs.