Medical Facilities: Post-COVID Construction Trends
All eyes are on the healthcare sector in light of the recent COVID pandemic. And while there was a significant push for telehealth medicine where patients could schedule virtual visits with their doctors to maintain social distancing protocols, patients are now vying to see their doctors face-to-face. Therefore, there is a growing need for medical space. And in a post-COVID world, expectations to meet that demand have changed dramatically.
“There is absolutely more demand for medical office space across the United States,” explained Stacy Shapiro, CCIM, vice president of Colliers International’s Las Vegas office. “Las Vegas specifically has a huge demand for health care. We have been lacking in this area for some time and have provided quality centers of excellence. That’s why a lot of people have to travel outside of Las Vegas to get certain levels of care. The demand is there. There are just a lot of challenges with the staff, an educated workforce and having the money to build these facilities.
Despite the growing need for medical space, inflation, coupled with supply chain delays, has also made it increasingly difficult to meet demand. As a result, off-campus facilities for medical offices have become popular. And to mitigate construction costs, many people are looking to repurpose existing office space.
“I see a lot more repurposing of existing spaces instead of floor spaces,” said Joe Garcia, healthcare project manager for SR Construction. “They’re innovating to get around some of those supply chain challenges and not being able to get the equipment. [The thought process is,] “Let’s take an old retail space and turn it into a doctor’s office. Let’s use this available space that already has lighting, electricity and air handling units, and modify it so that it can meet our needs. We see a little more than what we traditionally had. »
Another emerging trend in medical facilities is the insistence on owning rather than renting medical space. “We have seen a huge demand from people wanting to acquire their [own] office space,” said Kevin Annis, CCIM, SIOR, Principal Broker for ArchCrest Commercial Partners. “And with funding as affordable as it has been for the past two years. we probably sell 80% of the buildings we build instead of renting them. Medical practice groups are now looking to diversify some of their income instead of just being tenants in a hospital. And the medical practices we work with use their office space as a profit center. They own the property and then rent it to the practice instead of just renting it to a hospital and paying rent as a tenant.
This trend of owning doctor’s office space rather than renting it is directly related to the supply chain. “We are experiencing significant supply chain issues,” Annis said. “And so our construction costs are extraordinary right now. The current construction cost makes it very difficult for someone to just be a standard tenant. It’s also why we see people buying because it’s more affordable to spend $500 a foot on an office building and own it than to have a developer spend it and then rent it out at cost.
Preparing for the next pandemic
Many lessons have been learned the hard way during the pandemic. For those working in the medical field, the need to prepare in advance for a crisis was prominent among the lessons learned. One of the major issues facing hospitals was the inability to provide quality care to patients due to a lack of supplies and reliance on the supply chain. As a result, many medical institutions have started to stockpile in case the supply chain is squeezed again.
“[Hospitals] are renting off-campus warehouses and flex space and trying to get them as close to the hospital as possible to address supply chain issues,” Shapiro said. “So when we have other surges, they have a more effective supply chain management strategy. All hospital systems must now solve this problem with internal warehousing that they control or by using alternative supply, automation or expansion of inventory facilities. They get into the logistics game.
Another trend emerging in the wake of the pandemic has been the initiative to make all hospital rooms convertible into ICUs. “What we’ve done here at Sierra Medical Center has gone toward universal rooms, which is basically having every room in the hospital be designed as an intensive care unit,” said Walter Ray, director of the operation of Sierra Medical Center. “They will be used differently. [For example] if you are going to deliver a baby, the delivery room and postpartum postpartum head walls after delivery will all have the same connections for medical air, oxygen, and suction as you would find in an intensive care unit. If there is a pandemic again, then we can convert all the rooms in this hospital into an intensive care unit. We can use that flexibility where we can go up to an intensive care unit, and we can use it up to a standard post-surgical medical bed.
Medical facility developers are looking at patient satisfaction levels like never before. “Anything they can do to get [patients] in the gate with the fewest challenges is exceptionally important,” Shapiro said. “Many developers and facilities are looking for convenient locations for nearby residents. The aesthetic is [also] now plays a major role. What will help attract patients? What will help retain patients? You want safe and modernized buildings with security. You want light and airy common areas, like when you enter the building, in the hallways, and in the suites. They always try to infuse as much natural light as possible. Many also add valet services like cafes and organized transportation for seniors.
Free-standing office buildings have also become increasingly popular in order to avoid crowded parking lots for patients. “We specialize in a garden office environment, which is a free-standing office building, and it has its own main entrance,” Annis said. “And we’ve seen a huge demand for medical office space for our development as tenants today are trying to move out of the multi-tenant office and medical space where they have their own parking for their own building. They can just walk in and out instead of having a common lobby and elevator. The self-contained building has actually been hugely successful and in high demand.”
Some hospitals are also incorporating more private rooms for patients to not only mitigate potential infection spread issues, but also to improve the patient experience. “New construction on all levels will be private rooms or single rooms,” Ray said. “Because you don’t share anything with anyone, you don’t have visitors to bother you. This trend is going to be more to the private experience. More towards a hotel type experience. As for us, we [offer] room service instead of the tray line. [We can tell patients] ‘Here is your private room. It has great views of the Sierra Range or the Virginia Range. You may not have chosen to be here, but while you are here, we hope you enjoy your stay. We went so far as to incorporate blackout curtains. We do everything we can to reduce noise and disruption so you can rest more often. It’s definitely becoming more patient-centric, and we’re building to that standard. »
There has been a significant increase in the use of technology in medical institutions in recent years. In particular, progress has been made during the pandemic to alleviate the need for social distancing. “There are a lot of technological advances that have emerged as a workaround for COVID like digital gateways and advances in telemedicine,” Garcia said. “There is more reliance on telemedicine than three years ago. Consultations, monitoring and electronic health records are all more common in healthcare settings, and they weren’t before.
Significant advances in sanitation have also been incorporated into medical facilities. “We’ve outfitted the emergency and operating rooms with indigo lighting,” Ray said. “Indigo lighting is just below UV on the light spectrum. If you’re in our ER today, you might walk to a room that has blue light and what it does is some level of disinfection. It’s not pure UV, but while it’s sitting there, the light changes from white spectrum to blue spectrum. When it can’t detect a person in there, it can’t hear anyone and sees no one, it switches to this blue spectrum and it cleans. We have done the cleaning on our side, and it continues to clean.
Medical institutions are also investing in cleaning robots. “I think you’re seeing a lot more in hospitals across the country that they’re investing in UV robots,” Ray said. “Those we have, [allow us to] map the whole installation. When we’re done in an operating room, emergency room, or patient room, and we need to return it, as part of the terminal cleaning process, we just press a button on this robot, say : “Go to the white room”. number 213.’ It propels itself there and it goes around the room and does its UV cycle and kills all the other bacteria. It kills all the germs, and it does it all by itself. You see a lot more hospitals investing in this technology, whether it’s autonomous robots or robots that you push into a room and press a start button and leave the room and it starts.
In a post-COVID world, it has become clear that there is a new normal and for medical establishments, this is especially true. While telehealth options are a great result of the pandemic, allowing patients to speak to a medical expert from the comfort of their home, patients are back in buildings. This has resulted in demand for office space in the face of a significantly delayed supply chain and rising inflation which continue to present challenges. But those trying to meet the demand for medical facilities have gotten creative. They repurpose space, seek to own rather than rent, and create environments that elevate patient satisfaction to new levels. Yes, there is a new normal – but in a post-COVID world, the patient is at the center of medical facilities.