Estimated read time: 7 minutes, 45 seconds
Medical office buildings (MOBs) are not a new concept. In fact, the enactment of the Affordable Care Act over a decade ago accelerated the initial demand for these facilities. What’s propelling the demand for medical office building construction now is a prevention-focused model of healthcare, paired with driving factors like community demographics, cost of care, patient preferences, and accessibility.
Current Driving Factors in the Demand for Medical Office Buildings
Reducing Healthcare Costs by Creating Healthier Communities
Keeping communities healthy is the best way to reduce the cost of the most expensive medical care, which typically happens in hospitals and is often more reactive than proactive—and it all starts with wellness and preventative care.
Today’s medical office buildings are part of a “healthcare ecosystem” designed to meet an individual community’s needs by providing the right care, at the right place and at the right time. To be successful, this ecosystem must address each part of the patient’s journey: healthy living, prevention, diagnosis, treatment, and home care.
Medical office buildings can be built to target one or several stages of a patient’s health and wellness journey. Some might serve as an ambulatory care center or focus on specialty care for specific health conditions, whereas others offer various preventative care and outpatient medical services. Of course, choosing which services to offer and where to build medical office buildings depends on the current and future needs of the community.
Selecting Medical Office Building Construction Sites Based on Community Needs
“We want healthcare that’s convenient,” says Chantily Malibago, director of real estate for Healthcare at Mortenson. “When you think about care delivery in the past, it might have been a hospital and a medical office adjacent to the hospital. Patients would come to the medical office if they needed more care. What has transformed over the past 20 years is you still have the hospital, but because of all of these factors...we are now building MOBs where the community is.”
Demographics and analytics both play a major role in selecting medical office building construction sites. For example, Mortenson uses healthcare real estate development expertise to help customers create spaces that meet the specific needs of a community. Questions commonly asked during site selection include:
- What is the current population density and how fast is the community growing? What are the demographics of the surrounding communities? What is the percentage of young families, single adults, and older retirees?
- Is the community stable?
- What does healthcare spending look like in this community? What percentage of people have commercial health insurance versus state or federal health coverage?
- How far will people need to drive to get here? Is the site close to public transportation?
- Are there nearby retailers and neighborhood amenities that drive traffic to this area?
Medical office building construction serves not only the community but healthcare organizations—especially when there are no existing healthcare systems in the area. Maggie Beckley, development executive for healthcare at Mortenson says, “If it’s a new community and a health system can be the first in that community, there’s a high potential to capture that patient population, from newborns all the way up to senior care.”
The key to capturing community members and building a patient base is viewing them as consumers—people with specific needs that drive their decisions. That means not only meeting the medical needs of a community but ensuring the services are accessible and conveniently located.
Improving Accessibility and Convenience for Patients
“You want to bring facilities to the people,” says Maggie. “At one time, it [the location] was really driven by the physicians and where the hospital wanted to put a particular location. But now, it's driven by the consumer.”
Proximity to school, work, shopping, and medical services are all important to today’s busy individuals. Instead of driving 30 minutes to see a doctor, then traveling across town to pick up prescriptions and household essentials, people prefer the convenience of everything close to each other.
Mortenson designed, built, and developed Providence Health Center - Reed’s Crossing in Hillsboro, Oregon to meet these criteria. The facility was built near 5,000 single-family and multi-family dwellings, and over 250 senior living units being built over the next decade. The 118,000 SF facility integrates 65,000 SF of urgent care, medical imaging, women’s health, and dermatology exam areas with a 45,000 SF Active Wellness Center. Nearby neighborhood amenities include elementary schools, parks, a grocery store, and several coffee shops and small retailers.
As mentioned, accessibility is an important factor in site selection, too. Neighborhoods with a large aging population are conducive to building an MOB adjacent to senior housing or skilled nursing facilities. In other communities, the priority might be accessibility to specific health and wellness services.
Hennepin Healthcare Redleaf Center for Family Healing in Minneapolis, Minnesota, was built to address critical needs in the community for outpatient mental health services and parenting support for expectant mothers and families with young children. The MOB is located in an urban setting on the Hennepin Healthcare medical campus and is easily accessible by car or public transportation.
In addition to serving families in the community, the Redleaf Center addresses another driving factor in MOB design and construction: the needs of care teams.
Prioritizing the Health and Well-Being of Care Teams
The pandemic and ongoing physician shortages made healthcare systems prioritize the health and well-being of healthcare workers. Using a team-based model of care is part of this approach but it’s also important to design spaces that promote a healthier work environment.
Modern MOBs like the Redleaf Center include thoughtful healthcare design elements like respite areas with ample natural light, bright and inviting spaces for collaboration, and other amenities typically seen in corporate spaces. Patient services and amenities like wellness centers are also available to care providers working on site.
Aurora Medical Center Mount Pleasant, located in Mount Pleasant, Wisconsin, is a 296,000 SF complex consisting of a medical center and adjacent MOB. Care team-focused design elements in this facility include integrated workrooms and quiet rooms, improved ergonomics, flexible collaboration spaces, and breakrooms with natural light and outdoor space.
The Future of Healthcare and Medical Office Building Trends
“The future of healthcare is digital, it’s retail, it’s mixed-use,” says Chantily. “It’s integrated into the community and in the path of travel for consumer.” Looking ahead, healthcare will be delivered across a spectrum of methods. Hospitals will likely be smaller and focused on acute care and serving the sickest of patients. We will see a continuing rise in community-based medical office building construction, retail healthcare, and ambulatory and outpatient care centers. Home care will also grow, with patients able to receive services ranging from routine care to diagnostics to chemotherapy in the comfort of their homes.
Flexible, digitally integrated spaces will drive patient care and help healthcare providers better serve communities now and well into the future. During the pandemic, telemedicine completely changed healthcare delivery for patients and providers. Care became more convenient, affordable, and accessible for patients. For providers, telehealth helped reduce overhead costs and enable more efficient use of space. This technology also reduces the need for in-person schedulers, waiting room staff, and nurses, which helps facilities deal with staffing shortages.
Using standardized, modular layouts in medical office building designs will present the opportunity to improve infrastructures quickly and with minimal structural changes to the building. The Schulze Center for Excellence in Neurological Care at Abbott Northwestern Hospital is one example of flexible, future-ready spaces. In this design, modular walls manufactured by DIRTT were installed for inpatient and ICU rooms, allowing spaces to be reconfigured as care needs change at the facility. Including this same level of flexibility in medical office building designs allows facilities to adapt as a community grows and its care needs change.
Successful medical office building construction involves more than creating a structure. It requires insight into health and community trends, healthcare system and provider needs, and the patient experience. Working with an experienced healthcare developer and builder ensures your medical office building meets the care goals of providers and the specific needs of patients and the community.
“You don’t want to miss the opportunity to make it the best facility possible because it serves the patients and the community,” says Maggie. “Being intentional about what is in the medical office building, being mindful of the pricing and the timelines, and relationship building for the community is important.”
Chantily Malibago is the director of real estate development for healthcare at Mortenson. She delivers real estate solutions to health systems and care organizations nationwide, with a focus on reducing care costs and improving the patient experience and community health.
Maggie Beckley is a development executive for healthcare at Mortenson. She focuses on system strategy, developing client relationships, and expanding healthcare real estate development in the Chicago and Milwaukee markets.
What other trends are driving healthcare facility design?
Gain insight from healthcare leaders into the latest medical office building trends and the long-term impact of the pandemic on healthcare facility design.