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The Future of Medical Real Estate: Key Trends and Predictions for 2024 and Beyond

The healthcare industry is undergoing major changes, from an aging population with more complex care needs to advances in technology enabling more procedures to be performed in outpatient settings. These factors are greatly impacting medical real estate and facilities. Here we explore the key trends shaping the future of medical real estate in 2024 and beyond.

Rise of Outpatient Facilities

One major trend is the shift towards outpatient care and a corresponding increase in demand for outpatient facilities. There are several interrelated reasons driving this:

  • Consumer Preferences: Patients strongly prefer the convenience, proximity and better experience provided at outpatient locations. A 2023 patient survey found 40% of patients traveled 14 minutes or less to receive care, underscoring the demand for convenient care close to home.
  • Technology Advances: An increasing number of complex procedures can now be performed safely in outpatient settings due to technological improvements. This enables more procedures to shift away from costly hospital settings.
  • Cost Savings: Building and operating outpatient facilities is significantly cheaper than hospitals, while also enabling health providers to earn higher margins on outpatient procedures. This makes outpatient facilities highly appealing to develop from a cost perspective.

As a result, outpatient facilities are projected to see substantial growth in demand and construction starts in 2024 and beyond. Cancer care centers, orthopedic clinics, rehabilitation centers and behavioral health facilities are examples of outpatient facilities expected to expand rapidly.

Repurposing Existing Buildings

Another major trend is repurposing existing buildings into medical facilities, rather than ground-up new construction. Converting vacant retail, office and industrial buildings into medical outpatient facilities can often be faster and cheaper than building new facilities.

Healthcare providers may find second-generation space appealing as construction costs are projected to rise 2-4% in 2024. Seeking converted space enables providers to limit expenses and reduce out-of-pocket costs for building upgrades. Trading free rent for tenant improvement dollars also helps incentivize repurposing existing real estate.

As construction costs and material prices remain unpredictable, many health systems are cautious about breaking ground on new facilities. Repurposing vacant buildings helps limit financial risk. This trend is expected to accelerate rapidly.

Focus on Improving Patient Experience

Today’s healthcare consumers have high expectations and healthcare providers are focused on delivering exceptional patient experiences to attract and retain patients. This is impacting medical facility design and amenities.

Key areas of focus include:

Natural Lighting and Access to Nature: Abundant natural daylight, green space and access to nature are becoming priorities. Studies confirm exposure to nature has measurable positive impacts on health outcomes and patient recovery times. Facilities integrated with outdoor walking paths, green space and ample daylight help improve patient satisfaction.

Amenities: Patient-centered amenities similar to hospitality spaces are increasingly common. Welcome lobbies resemble hotels, featuring natural materials, soft seating, calm lighting and noise-reducing finishes. Treatment rooms incorporate noise-masking systems and spa-like design. The goal is to create an aesthetically appealing, comforting and stress-reducing environment.

Wayfinding: Many patients complain that medical facilities are confusing to navigate with winding hallways and unclear signage. Intuitive interior wayfinding helps patients easily navigate medical facilities. Wayfinding signage, visual cues and simplicity of layout complements patient-focused design.

Flexibility: Adaptability enables facilities to flex and change over time as clinical needs evolve. Flexible wall systems allow spaces to be reconfigured to alter room sizes. Universal procedure rooms accommodate diverse uses. Flexible headwalls and boom systems allow rooms to serve changing functions.

The patient experience is a key trend shaping medical real estate. Facilities will continue improving to better serve patient needs and preferences in 2024 and beyond. 

One way to ensure you can provide a better patient experience is to have an improvements allowance in your contract. Talk to a professional medical real estate specialist like Healthcare Realty Group to assist with contract negotiations.

Specialization Expanding

Healthcare real estate is trending towards more specialized facilities focused on specific care types, services and procedures. For medical real estate, this translates to increased development of specialized outpatient facilities centered on areas like cancer treatment, behavioral health services and ambulatory surgery.

Specialty facilities allow health providers to deeply focus their capabilities, clinical expertise, equipment and facility design on specific care types. Specialized facilities also earn patient trust in quality of care for given treatment types. As healthcare continues fragmenting towards specialization, demand for tailored specialty facilities will greatly expand.

Telehealth Reshaping Space Use

Another significant trend is the rapid expansion of telehealth. Telehealth visits are projected to account for over 25% of medical visits by 2024, fundamentally changing how medical facilities are used.

As more routine doctor consultations and follow-ups are handled remotely, demand for traditional exam rooms and clinical space is declining. However, with fewer in-person visits, facilities can repurpose underutilized space to support specialized programs that do require an in-person presence like imaging, diagnostics, procedures and surgery.

Medical offices are also creating hybrid telehealth spaces enabling physicians to easily conduct both remote and in-person consultations. Flex rooms allow shifts between uses. The rapid telehealth expansion will substantially alter clinical space requirements and layouts.

Key Takeaways

Major shifts towards outpatient facilities, patient experience focus, specialization, nursing shortages and telehealth are disrupting medical real estate as we know it. Agility and innovation will be vital for facilities adapting to the new landscape.

Repurposing existing buildings and leveraging technology to multiply staff impact will be priority tactics. Touchless environments, green space, abundant natural light and amenities to reduce patient stress will reshape facility design.

By proactively aligning buildings and care delivery with key trends, medical real estate can optimize human experience, outcomes and financial performance through the unprecedented industry changes ahead.

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