Healthcare Project Manager, Architect Reimagine Medical Office Building for New Economic Normal

We’ve been hearing this for years now:healthcare has to reduce costs and be more efficient.Smart healthcare real estate players will note this need and proceed accordingly, offering reduced costs and economies of scale. A recent article in Healthcare Design provides a compelling look on how this can be done:

Reimagining the Medical Office Building

By Cinda Z. Terry, RID, and Brenda Bush-Moline, AIA, LEED AP, EDAC

Recent shifts in culture, labor, workflow, and design are challenging many of the long-held roles and criteria that dictate how healthcare facilities are developed, designed, and managed. One of the most prevalent trends taking shape as a result of these changes to the nation’s care delivery model is thoughtful reevaluation of the design of medical office buildings (MOBs) and other outpatient facilities.

Not long ago—before these sweeping changes began taking place—most MOBs were designed as multitenant facilities organized to house numerous independent physicians or medical practice groups. Typically, that meant floor plans calling for long public hallways linking numerous separate suites, each with its own entrance, reception area, waiting room, exam rooms, restrooms, physicians and business offices, records storage, staff break room, imaging center, and lab.

However, the transformation of the healthcare industry is forcing providers, designers, and developers to reconsider this sort of isolation and duplication.

In a marked change from just a few years ago, hospitals and health systems now employ more than half of all physicians—and the proportion continues to grow. The impact of this trend alone on MOB design has been remarkable.

This new reality demands that providers, architects, and developers look at MOB design in a new way. Rather than multitenant MOBs, what’s needed are multispecialty MOBs designed to better support physician integration and collaboration, while boosting productivity and efficiency.

Instead of collections of independent doctors’ offices, each with their own infrastructure, future MOBs must be designed to house complementary practices, co-located services, shared support staff, and centralized common areas.

This new breed of multispecialty MOBs will require floor plans that include fewer public hallways—or perhaps no public hallways at all. Main entrances will open into larger, shared reception areas and waiting rooms for all patients, serving as central gateways to all doctors within the facility. Waiting areas will be focal points, and will be designed to provide a soothing, aesthetically pleasing experience while they handle the functions of registration and administration.

Not all spaces can be shared, due to local regulations, American Institute of Architects (AIA) guidelines, or both. However, assuming co-location of the types of medicine being practiced is permitted, many types of shared spaces can be created.

Exam rooms will be organized into groups of standardized pods that can adapt to the ebb and flow of patient demand for particular specialties at any given time. Restrooms, storage, imaging centers, and labs will be shared. Offices for physicians practicing different but complementary specialties will be grouped, facilitating easier interaction and consultation. Break rooms and conference rooms will also be shared, offering additional opportunities for both planned and serendipitous interaction.

Business offices will be centralized—perhaps even eliminated altogether, if those functions are absorbed by employer-hospitals. Even some medical personnel and support staff will be shared, cross-trained, and cross-utilized. MOBs will increasingly incorporate shared conference centers and auditoriums, in both common areas and suites, for staff training and patient education.

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